MSTM Supports Our Black Community




Black Lives Matter. For some people in America this statement seems radical when in reality, we as a society can not say everyone's life is equal and meaningful until we are willing to acknowledge that in 2020, we still treat black lives as 3/5th a person. This statement remains a fact when we look at every sector of our economy. When we look at consumer staples we see a number of influencers and corporations who appropriate black culture for profit while not giving credit or even funding to the Black community. On June 1st, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma contained the Greenwood District known as "Black Wall Street." There were 300 black-owned businesses that were burned down by racist whites who were envious of the rich black people in this part of the country after an incident between a black man and a white woman, where the black man tripped in an elevator and grabbed the white woman's arm to support himself. This led to one of the deadliest race riots in American History. The damage led to many deaths and the wealth of these black families was never restored as all of the insurance claims on their properties and businesses were denied. In the 1940s Black families were denied FHA mortgages. These are government-backed mortgages that insure high-risk borrowers from low-income backgrounds. During this time Black families were denied access to these mortgages while white people were afforded the opportunity to build wealth and move to the suburbs. When we fast forward to the 1960s during a time of Jim Crow Laws and a well-known slogan of the era, "Separate but Equal" is the reason Black communities emerged and developed separately. It wouldn't be until Dr. Martin Luther King's poetic death, a violent assassination that created civil unrest across the nation because White people refused to close their businesses while black people mourned the loss of one of the greatest civil rights leaders in the country, that riots broke out. After 100s of riots broke out, Congress signed the Fair Housing Act of 1968 which prohibited the government and banks from discriminating against minorities seeking to purchases homes. This was one part of MLK's Economic Bill of Rights. By the time Black folks even got an opportunity to participate in home buying, Whites already had almost 40 years of government-subsidized wealth accumulation on their side. 

 

 

Fair Lending Laws which still exist today, alone would not end racism in America. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank was fined for Fair Lending Violations in 2017 for $55 Million Dollars for denying Black and Latinx mortgage applicants who rightfully qualified. On June 18th, 1971, President Nixon began his campaign for the War on Drugs. This campaign was a systemic effort to funnel Black and Latinx people into jails in America. This system still remains in place today. Many of the private military corporations such as Lockheed Martin who are contracted out by the government operate the welfare programs in almost every state in America. Black and Latinx Americans are more likely per capita to get involved with CPS, end up in jail because of a non-violent offense, and join the military for a better a life. I am very familiar with the institutional injustices because I worked for Wall Street for 12 years of my adult life. It was by far an eye-opening education to see how deeply rooted racism is in the American economy. It was one of the factors that motivated me to get involved in local politics in the Hudson Valley. I was working for J.P. Morgan at the time and the North Dakota Access Pipeline became a huge debate because the pipeline was being built on sacred Native American land. At the time, J.P.Morgan opened a proprietary investment called the J.P. Morgan Energy Renessaise Portfolio. Our firm's Certified Product Specialist was coaching us on how to sell it. The company's economists were all talking about how they expected 9% annual returns and that this would provide wages of $25.00 per hour at a minimum for workers. As they started discussing what companies would be the holdings in this particular portfolio, Halliburton was one of the top ten. That alarmed me because I had known them to be a weapon company while I served in the United States Marine Corps. I couldn't understand why they would be in an oil portfolio until I started doing research. I was attending Post University at the time and I made this my research paper for my advanced economics class for the semester. This was how I went down the rabbit hole of really understanding minority issues in modern America. After I concluded my research, I learned Halliburton is an oil company that won a weapon's contract because Dick Cheney was not only on the Board of Directors for Halliburton but he was also the Vice President of the United States. This $5 billion dollar contract would help take over territory in the Middle East that Halliburton had been fined for doing business with in the past. This was a very strategic deal at the expense of the American taxpayer and would ultimately take the lives of many service members who believed they were fighting for freedom. As I began researching every portfolio I sold, I began to see a trend that minorities are essentially funneled into certain aspects of the economy in order to create wealth for the white and wealthy on Wall Street. That didn't align with me. While working at J.P. Morgan, I protested this portfolio and everything it stood for, and for the remainder of my career, I refused to sell any oil portfolios. I began internally protesting this portfolio. There was no reason why in modern-day America we should be profiting off of Native Americans, Black Americans, and Latinx Americans while disrespecting their cultures and rights at the same time. These economic issues exist in every sector of our society in 2020. When we look at law enforcement and the prison industrial complex these same trends emerge that black lives will serve longer sentences and be convicted at higher rates than white people will for the same exact crimes. The prison industrial complex is the backbone of consumer staples and products that we purchase every day in America. Many for-profit businesses use prison labor to create products at a lower cost. That labor mainly comes from Black and Latinx prisoners. 

You don't have to be against law enforcement or the military to acknowledge that we have serious systemic issues surrounding race in America. It is okay to support the military and law enforcement and still fight for justice and equality within the institutions that are currently benefiting from racism. Racism can be both conscious and unconscious. I have seen both in my interactions with people in power. Civic engagement and involvement in politics are how we can create meaningful change as a society. We have to work towards removing racist elected officials from power while supporting elected officials who are willing to hear and see us. Many local police departments are governed through local and county governments. As well as the District Attorneys that prosecute individuals. All of these elections happen in off-cycle years and generally have primary elections. Most people do not vote in local elections or in primaries. In states like New York where there are closed primaries, unless you are registered to vote with a party line, you can not vote in a primary at all. This restricts an individual's power in the political process. We each have the power within us to change the future. It requires all of us to take action. 

I received a number of people who told me they were disappointed in my support of the Black community and their belief that MSTM should only be focused on survivors. As a political organization, there are times when it is necessary to speak out. Black people serve in the military and in law enforcement. Black people go through MST as well. My point is that Black people have it harder solely on the basis of skin color. They have a right to feel protected, supported, loved, and empowered. I will always stand on the side of civil rights and equality. MSTM will represent those same values. I have heard the stories of many black women who shared what it was like to serve and go through MST and to experience trauma, retaliation, and discrimination on top of it; it takes an incredible level of strength that most people do not have within themselves. These are struggles that no one should have to endure but unfortunately, they do. We can't ask for allyship with MST survivors if we aren't willing to show up as allies for others. We can not ask people to see us as survivors when we chose to deny every other part of their story. We have to accept every part of everyone's story while in our pursuit of justice. MST is deeply correlated to racism in that they both are manifestations of white supremacy. In order to have true and meaningful progress, we need to show up for everyone. Not just ourselves. I know that concept is difficult for some and I ask that you can take a moment to think about what it feels like to be a Black woman or man in America who served this country, experienced MST and feel as if your life is less valued or as if you don't have the same freedoms. There comes a time where we need to acknowledge the pain and strength of the Black community and be there for them during this time. They need love and support and we need to be here to provide that. We need to help echo their voices and fight for justice. 

Having personally experienced injustice when I experienced MST, I know what that pain feels like. It is one of my life's deepest pains. I specifically remember this one day a few months after I got out of the military that I was walking on the streets of New York thinking that no one actually cared about service members unless it benefited them. I cried thinking about how no one would ever really know what I went through. I was also terrified to share my story because I thought people would think that I was going against the military versus trying to make it better. When I reflect on what is going on now with the deaths of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and many more who have died by police violence who are standing up, I know the level of courage it takes. That is why I chose to stand with our black community despite receiving a number of messages that suggested I should not. I am proud of our black community and I am proud to stand with our Black community. I do hope this message helps put their struggle in perspective as well as helps create empathy and bridge to the black struggle. 

 

Empathy for our Black community is the first step but it is certainly not the only step. A lot of work needs to be done and we need to move into action now. Peacefully protesting is a right afforded to us in the constitution but it is only one aspect of politics. Protesting has always been a marker for where someone's values lie. It is a clear indicator of what shortfalls they perceive and what motivates them to act. We can not have diversity, inclusivity, and freedom when we are not allowing everyone's voice to be heard. We need real action now! 

When I got involved in local politics, minority issues in my community became my interest. As a Puerto Rican woman, my cultural upbringing is tied to Caribbean culture, from the foods I eat and cook, to the music I listen to, clothes I wear, and hair products I use. Also learning about the economic injustices that occur after working in finance, I really wanted to explore and understand how these policies get executed politically. I remember one of the first political events I attended was at Beacon Town Hall. It was about the Dutchess County Jail Expansion. The room was packed and I remember that the unrest in the room. It was because the Black community was concerned about the Poughkeepsie High School-to-Prison pipeline. This is directly correlated to a long educational segregation battle that took place in Dutchess County throughout the 1960s when IBM, a major technology company during the time built a large plant that would be home to many of IBM's senior-level executives who have the money and power to fund a lengthy campaign to keep the divides between a manly Black and poor school and a White and wealthy one that both neighbor each other. These fears from the black community were completely rationale to me. I supported their cause to ensure that the jail does not get expanded and that support services do. At the time, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro made the argument that New York State was mandating the expansion and remodel due to the fact that it was completely full and Dutchess County was outsourcing and paying for inmates to be placed in other county's jails. I understood the economic situation as well as the government mandates but I still felt it was morally wrong. I questioned if our predominantly White government understood what it is like for minorities in the Hudson Valley. I remained engaged in politics and I consistently saw racism and even experienced it myself. A local paper in Wappingers Falls called The Hornet wrote an article making fun of me for having PTSD due to MST. I really had to sit and reflect on this for a number of reasons and the main one was would a White male veteran who told his story about MST experience that? I knew for a fact that a white male veteran in my town, would be met with overwhelming support if he shared the story I did. I'll be honest this left me resentful to those in power in the area. I consistently watched how elected officials and party officials disenfranchised minorities in a number of ways. I began seeing this pattern within the county Democratic party which is why I never fell in line with what they wanted. This became the reason I ultimately resigned.

When the organizers from Stop the Violence Movement asked me to assist them in organizing, speaking, and leading the demonstration in Poughkeepsie, New York yesterday my answer was a resounding yes. Given all of my experiences along with my moral compass, this was a no brainer for me. It was an emotionally powerful day as well. The peaceful protest drew over 2,000 demonstrators from across the Hudson Valley. Someone else was in attendance, our Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. I'll be the first to admit that I thought it was for a photo-op but as I spent the day leading side by side with him, I started to see his engagement and care for the people around him. He was fully present and participating in the activities of the day. He understood the pain of the community he serves. He made a leadership decision that he needed to be present for the Black community. I think that speaks volumes about where Dutchess County can maneuver to in the future. Marc is well respected and loved by just about everyone. His participation is far more powerful for the community than what most people realize. He represents a White male leader in a conservative power structure in a diverse county in New York. If he can stand with the Black community during this time of George Floyd's Death and the civil unrest, well then there's hope for change on the horizon. The reality is that we need everyone to create progress and to have meaningful change. There is a light shining in Dutchess County, New York even where other places in the country look dim. I hope that our story from the Hudon Valley inspires community leaders across the nation and that we continue to take actions that demonstrate Black Lives do Matter! 

Janelle's Speech on Police Brutality and Educational Segregation

Best, 

Janelle Marina Mendez

CEO of MSTM




Black Lives Matter. For some people in America this statement seems radical when in reality, we as a society can not say everyone's life is equal and meaningful until we are willing to acknowledge that in 2020, we still treat Black lives as 3/5th a person. This statement remains a fact when we look at every sector of our economy. When we look at consumer staples we see a number of influencers and corporations who appropriate Black culture for profit while not giving credit or even funding to the Black community. On June 1st, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma contained the Greenwood District known as "Black Wall Street." There were 300 black-owned businesses that were burned down by racist Whites who were envious of the rich Black people in this part of the country after an incident between a Black man and a White woman, where the black man tripped in an elevator and grabbed the white woman's arm to support himself. This led to one of the deadliest race riots in American History. The damage led to many deaths and the wealth of these black families was never restored as all of the insurance claims on their properties and businesses were denied. In the 1940s Black families were denied FHA mortgages. These are government-backed mortgages that insure high-risk borrowers from low-income backgrounds. During this time Black families were denied access to these mortgages while White people were afforded the opportunity to build wealth and move to the suburbs. When we fast forward to the 1960s during a time of Jim Crow Laws and a well-known slogan of the era, "Separate but Equal" is the reason Black communities emerged and developed separately. It wouldn't be until Dr. Martin Luther King's poetic death, a violent assassination that created civil unrest across the nation because White people refused to close their businesses while black people mourned the loss of one of the greatest civil rights leaders in the country, that riots broke out. After 100s of riots broke out, Congress signed the Fair Housing Act of 1968 which prohibited the government and banks from discriminating against minorities seeking to purchases homes. This was one part of MLK's Economic Bill of Rights. By the time Black folks even got an opportunity to participate in home buying, Whites already had almost 40 years of government-subsidized wealth accumulation on their side. 

 

 

Fair Lending Laws which still exist today, alone would not end racism in America. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank was fined for Fair Lending Violations in 2017 for $55 Million Dollars for denying Black and Latinx mortgage applicants who rightfully qualified. On June 18th, 1971, President Nixon began his campaign for the War on Drugs. This campaign was a systemic effort to funnel Black and Latinx people into jails in America. This system still remains in place today. Many of the private military corporations such as Lockheed Martin who are contracted out by the government operate the welfare programs in almost every state in America. Black and Latinx Americans are more likely per capita to get involved with CPS, end up in jail because of a non-violent offense, and join the military for a better a life. I am very familiar with the institutional injustices because I worked for Wall Street for 12 years of my adult life. It was by far an eye-opening education to see how deeply rooted racism is in the American economy. It was one of the factors that motivated me to get involved in local politics in the Hudson Valley. I was working for J.P. Morgan at the time and the North Dakota Access Pipeline became a huge debate because the pipeline was being built on sacred Native American land. At the time, J.P.Morgan opened a proprietary investment called the J.P. Morgan Energy Renessaise Portfolio. Our firm's Certified Product Specialist was coaching us on how to sell it. The company's economists were all talking about how they expected 9% annual returns and that this would provide wages of $25.00 per hour at a minimum for workers. As they started discussing what companies would be the holdings in this particular portfolio, Halliburton was one of the top ten. That alarmed me because I had known them to be a weapon company while I served in the United States Marine Corps. I couldn't understand why they would be in an oil portfolio until I started doing research. I was attending Post University at the time and I made this my research paper for my advanced economics class for the semester. This was how I went down the rabbit hole of really understanding minority issues in modern America. After I concluded my research, I learned Halliburton is an oil company that won a weapon's contract because Dick Cheney was not only on the Board of Directors for Halliburton but he was also the Vice President of the United States. This $5 billion dollar contract would help take over territory in the Middle East that Halliburton had been fined for doing business with in the past. This was a very strategic deal at the expense of the American taxpayer and would ultimately take the lives of many service members who believed they were fighting for freedom. As I began researching every portfolio I sold, I began to see a trend that minorities are essentially funneled into certain aspects of the economy in order to create wealth for the white and wealthy on Wall Street. That didn't align with me. While working at J.P. Morgan, I protested this portfolio and everything it stood for, and for the remainder of my career, I refused to sell any oil portfolios. I began internally protesting this portfolio. There was no reason why in modern-day America we should be profiting off of Native Americans, Black Americans, and Latinx Americans while disrespecting their cultures and rights at the same time. These economic issues exist in every sector of our society in 2020. When we look at law enforcement and the prison industrial complex these same trends emerge that black lives will serve longer sentences and be convicted at higher rates than white people will for the same exact crimes. The prison industrial complex is the backbone of consumer staples and products that we purchase every day in America. Many for-profit businesses use prison labor to create products at a lower cost. That labor mainly comes from Black and Latinx prisoners. 

You don't have to be against law enforcement or the military to acknowledge that we have serious systemic issues surrounding race in America. It is okay to support the military and law enforcement and still fight for justice and equality within the institutions that are currently benefiting from racism. Racism can be both conscious and unconscious. I have seen both in my interactions with people in power. Civic engagement and involvement in politics are how we can create meaningful change as a society. We have to work towards removing racist elected officials from power while supporting elected officials who are willing to hear and see us. Many local police departments are governed through local and county governments. As well as the District Attorneys that prosecute individuals. All of these elections happen in off-cycle years and generally have primary elections. Most people do not vote in local elections or in primaries. In states like New York where there are closed primaries, unless you are registered to vote with a party line, you can not vote in a primary at all. This restricts an individual's power in the political process. We each have the power within us to change the future. It requires all of us to take action. 

I received a number of people who told me they were disappointed in my support of the Black community and their belief that MSTM should only be focused on survivors. As a political organization, there are times when it is necessary to speak out. Black people serve in the military and in law enforcement. Black people go through MST as well. My point is that Black people have it harder solely on the basis of skin color. They have a right to feel protected, supported, loved, and empowered. I will always stand on the side of civil rights and equality. MSTM will represent those same values. I have heard the stories of many black women who shared what it was like to serve and go through MST and to experience trauma, retaliation, and discrimination on top of it; it takes an incredible level of strength that most people do not have within themselves. These are struggles that no one should have to endure but unfortunately, they do. We can't ask for allyship with MST survivors if we aren't willing to show up as allies for others. We can not ask people to see us as survivors when we chose to deny every other part of their story. We have to accept every part of everyone's story while in our pursuit of justice. MST is deeply correlated to racism in that they both are manifestations of white supremacy. In order to have true and meaningful progress, we need to show up for everyone. Not just ourselves. I know that concept is difficult for some and I ask that you can take a moment to think about what it feels like to be a Black woman or man in America who served this country, experienced MST and feel as if your life is less valued or as if you don't have the same freedoms. There comes a time where we need to acknowledge the pain and strength of the Black community and be there for them during this time. They need love and support and we need to be here to provide that. We need to help echo their voices and fight for justice. 

Having personally experienced injustice when I experienced MST, I know what that pain feels like. It is one of my life's deepest pains. I specifically remember this one day a few months after I got out of the military that I was walking on the streets of New York thinking that no one actually cared about service members unless it benefited them. I cried thinking about how no one would ever really know what I went through. I was also terrified to share my story because I thought people would think that I was going against the military versus trying to make it better. When I reflect on what is going on now with the deaths of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and many more who have died by police violence who are standing up, I know the level of courage it takes. That is why I chose to stand with our black community despite receiving a number of messages that suggested I should not. I am proud of our black community and I am proud to stand with our Black community. I do hope this message helps put their struggle in perspective as well as helps create empathy and bridge to the black struggle. 

 

Empathy for our Black community is the first step but it is certainly not the only step. A lot of work needs to be done and we need to move into action now. Peacefully protesting is a right afforded to us in the constitution but it is only one aspect of politics. Protesting has always been a marker for where someone's values lie. It is a clear indicator of what shortfalls they perceive and what motivates them to act. We can not have diversity, inclusivity, and freedom when we are not allowing everyone's voice to be heard. We need real action now! 

When I got involved in local politics, minority issues in my community became my interest. As a Puerto Rican woman, my cultural upbringing is tied to Caribbean culture, from the foods I eat and cook, to the music I listen to, clothes I wear, and hair products I use. Also learning about the economic injustices that occur after working in finance, I really wanted to explore and understand how these policies get executed politically. I remember one of the first political events I attended was at Beacon Town Hall. It was about the Dutchess County Jail Expansion. The room was packed and I remember that the unrest in the room. It was because the Black community was concerned about the Poughkeepsie High School-to-Prison pipeline. This is directly correlated to a long educational segregation battle that took place in Dutchess County throughout the 1960s when IBM, a major technology company during the time built a large plant that would be home to many of IBM's senior-level executives who have the money and power to fund a lengthy campaign to keep the divides between a manly Black and poor school and a White and wealthy one that both neighbor each other. These fears from the black community were completely rationale to me. I supported their cause to ensure that the jail does not get expanded and that support services do. At the time, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro made the argument that New York State was mandating the expansion and remodel due to the fact that it was completely full and Dutchess County was outsourcing and paying for inmates to be placed in other county's jails. I understood the economic situation as well as the government mandates but I still felt it was morally wrong. I questioned if our predominantly White government understood what it is like for minorities in the Hudson Valley. I remained engaged in politics and I consistently saw racism and even experienced it myself. A local paper in Wappingers Falls called The Hornet wrote an article making fun of me for having PTSD due to MST. I really had to sit and reflect on this for a number of reasons and the main one was would a White male veteran who told his story about MST experience that? I knew for a fact that a white male veteran in my town, would be met with overwhelming support if he shared the story I did. I'll be honest this left me resentful to those in power in the area. I consistently watched how elected officials and party officials disenfranchised minorities in a number of ways. I began seeing this pattern within the county Democratic party which is why I never fell in line with what they wanted. This became the reason I ultimately resigned.

When the organizers from Stop the Violence Movement asked me to assist them in organizing, speaking, and leading the demonstration in Poughkeepsie, New York yesterday my answer was a resounding yes. Given all of my experiences along with my moral compass, this was a no brainer for me. It was an emotionally powerful day as well. The peaceful protest drew over 2,000 demonstrators from across the Hudson Valley. Someone else was in attendance, our Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. I'll be the first to admit that I thought it was for a photo-op but as I spent the day leading side by side with him, I started to see his engagement and care for the people around him. He was fully present and participating in the activities of the day. He understood the pain of the community he serves. He made a leadership decision that he needed to be present for the Black community. I think that speaks volumes about where Dutchess County can maneuver to in the future. Marc is well respected and loved by just about everyone. His participation is far more powerful for the community than what most people realize. He represents a White male leader in a conservative power structure in a diverse county in New York. If he can stand with the Black community during this time of George Floyd's Death and the civil unrest, well then there's hope for change on the horizon. The reality is that we need everyone to create progress and to have meaningful change. There is a light shining in Dutchess County, New York even where other places in the country look dim. I hope that our story from the Hudon Valley inspires community leaders across the nation and that we continue to take actions that demonstrate Black Lives do Matter! 

Janelle's Speech on Police Brutality and Educational Segregation

Best, 

Janelle Marina Mendez

CEO of MSTM

BLM