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— Amy Vilela, Candidate for U.S. Congress · NV 04
By Amy Vilela – February 15, 2018
The fact that Americans have already suffered through 18 school shootings in just the first month and a half of 2018 is tragic beyond comprehension. First, I want to acknowledge the untold grief this massacre has wrought on parents, relatives, friends and their communities. I know firsthand the pain and devastation of losing a child in an untimely and needless manner, but I can't imagine the suffering that accompanies the premeditated murder of a child at the hands of a former classmate.
As a candidate for Congress, I firmly believe that offering our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families is insufficient. Only action matters now.
Time after time we've witnessed shooters unleash their carnage with legally purchased weapons. Background checks, better mental health screening and closing gun show loopholes are only part of the solution.
High capacity firearms serve no purpose in our society. They belong in military battles, not in the halls of a Florida school, or being used to turn an outdoor concert into a killing field.
Preventing high capacity weapons from being sold to civilians will be among my primary goals in Congress. We need only look to the results of the previous assault weapons ban for proof of its effectiveness. I will enlist the support of responsible gun owners who are equally disgusted by the charade played out in Washington.
My heart is with the families who are just beginning their long journey of grief. I stand with their demands for justice and reform. One needless death is one too many.
Bullying is Bad Enough
School Officials and Law Enforcement Should be Part of the Solution, Not the Problem
YHS is a hotbed of racist misconduct and threats. The warning signs are obvious; Plaintiffs do not want to wait until gunfire erupts and students are slaughtered before action is taken. This lawsuit is brought because the racial behavior at YHS goes far beyond simple teasing and name-calling and is severe, pervasive, persistent and dangerous. There are students with knives and guns threatening to go “nigger hunting” and a law enforcement community that has empowered them.
— Tolliver et al. vs. Lyon County School District, et al.
Kids will be kids. Bad behavior by children is expected to an extent. But when the bad behavior is intended to hurt and demean other children, is tolerated by adults, educators and even law enforcement, it's time to speak up.
The acts attributed to some Yerington High School students, described in news reports and alleged in a federal lawsuit, should be thoroughly investigated.
The students who have allegedly been bullying and cyberbullying (including a Lyon County police deputy's son, who posted photos suggesting he was going to hunt minorities), should be held accountable and referred to appropriate programs.
But it's the behavior of adults that is alleged in the lawsuit that really concerns me.
For instance, why did a Yerington Police officer dismiss the boy's racist photo captions as "free speech" protected by the First Amendment, when Nevada law clearly prohibits racially-motivated bullying and cyberbullying of students?
Why did the police shred records of the "investigation" in violation of Nevada law?
And if the allegations in the suit are correct, why did the school principal not only fail to abide by NRS 388 by not producing a safety plan for the alleged victims but also violate the law by further isolating the young girls and their parents?
Finally, while Nevada lawmakers have made efforts to protect students from bullying, the online reporting system, which promised the parents of the alleged victims that an investigation would ensue and a report would be forthcoming, is clearly in need of a follow-up mechanism to ensure officials comply.
I'll be offering my support to the students, their family and the community at the February 27th at the meeting of the Lyon County School Board.
Does the observation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday seem even more relevant to you this year?
By Amy Vilela – January 15, 2018
It does to me.
Maybe it's because I'm in the midst of a political campaign that has made me acutely aware of the suffering endured every day by so many in this country. Maybe it's the vulgar words and even uglier intent of the man who occupies the Oval Office. Or, to paraphrase David Axelrod on Twitter, maybe it's because "I am not a racist" is hardly the appropriate holiday refrain.
Whatever the reason, the struggle, the setbacks, the need to persevere all seem more immediate to me this year.
Dr. King didn't have it any easier in his day, yet he managed to brush off the indignities, the violence, the arrests and march on. Some days one step forward, two steps back - but he marched on.
That is Dr. King's lesson and the example we will follow. We will walk the path laid long ago, fight injustice where we find it, and though it may seem ever-more elusive, keep the dream alive.
The Legacy of Samuel L. Smith
By Amy Vilela – January 15, 2018
In the last week, we've honored some unsung African-American heroes who made a difference on a national level. Today we'd like to visit closer to home, to the heart of Historic West Las Vegas and a bookstore owned by a former firefighter named Sam Smith.
Smith was a community leader who helped countless young people gain the skills they needed to pursue professional careers. He held court at his Native Son Bookstore, where he'd quiz children on their math skills and nurture the minds of his customers via an incredible reading selection.
A tireless advocate for women and people of color, Sam Smith embodies the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Today, Smith's own legacy lives on through the Samuel L. Smith Educational Foundation, and via "The Gathering," a weekly social event at Nevada Partners, dedicated to fostering Dr. King's vision of the Blessed Community. I've personally had the great privilege of attending and have seen firsthand he gift of compassion and love that Sam Smith continues to give to the community.
Yes, April Ryan. Trump is a Racist.
By Amy Vilela – January 13, 2018
"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and that in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."
— Martin Luther King Jr.
I'd hoped to spend the week leading up to MLK Day by discussing Dr. King's inspiring speeches and introducing you to unsung African-American heroes. We'll get there in a moment, but first, a sadly necessary detour.
I would like to say I'm surprised by Trump's racist comments regarding Haitians and Africans. The truth is, like most of us, I haven't been surprised or shocked for a long time. It's not that I'm inured. I've simply given up hope.
What Trump said about Haitians and Africans is despicable. But it's no worse than the seemingly countless slurs uttered by the man in recent years - Birtherism, the travel ban, his comments on Mexicans, Muslims and women. Need I go on? Sadly, the well to draw from is deep.
As hard as it is to fathom, the man in the Oval Office is a full-throated, whole-hearted bigot. The question April Ryan yelled yesterday morning as Trump scurried from the Martin Luther King proclamation ceremony has been answered. The man charged with the moral leadership of our nation is racist.
We can marvel at it, lament it and weep for the innocent victims of his wrath. We can act, too. At some point, the House of Representatives may well be called on to initiate the impeachment process. Do what it takes today - volunteer, make calls, donate - to ensure the right people are in place tomorrow to put an end to the embarrassment we are suffering.
Now, back to the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.
The 'not too distant tomorrow' Dr. King dreams of in the quote above has clearly not arrived.
Like Dr. King, I hope for the day bigots are unwelcome in our communities, let alone our nation's highest office. Until then, we learn, we work and we fight - for equality, justice and dignity.
Today we're paying tribute to a trans woman who was an early pioneer in the fight for gender equality.
The Legacy of MLK: Marsha "Pay it No Mind" Johnson
By Amy Vilela – January 13, 2018
Marsha P. Johnson legally changed her name from Malcolm Michaels in 1966. When people asked Marsha her middle name, she'd reply, "Pay it no mind." Her answer served to deter questions about her gender. Marsha is said to have been at the Stonewall Inn the night the infamous rioting broke out that would spark a revolution in the LGBT community. Marsha is credited with establishing communities in which people of alternative lifestyles would feel welcome. Marsha lived in New York City until her death in 1992. Today she's remembered among gender rights activists for her many contributions to the trans community.
The Legacy of MLK: Fannie Lou Hamer
By Amy Vilela – January 11, 2018
"There comes a time when silence is betrayal."
— Martin Luther King Jr.
"By the time I was 10 or 12, I just wished to God I was white you know because they had food to eat... "
— Fannie Lou Hamer
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We're celebrating the life of Martin Luther King this week as we approach his birthday. Dr. King knew that every voice in the chorus, no matter how small, amplifies the message. Perhaps no one illustrates that message better than Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper who found herself an unlikely heroine in the battle for civil rights.
In 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer dared to attend a meeting to register to vote. The act changed her life forever.
This unsung heroine's testimony at the 1964 Democratic Convention upset President Lyndon Johnson so much he called a news conference to get her off TV. Take the time to learn the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, who dared to speak up.
The Legacy of MLK: Erica Garner
By Amy Vilela – January 10, 2018
As we near the observation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, I want to talk about the civil rights leader’s strength and optimism in the face of adversity.
Here’s one of my favorite MLK speeches:
I love that speech because it speaks to MLK’s tenacity – to his refusal to give up when the odds seemed long against him. I know how hard it is to keep going when you want to give up, when the pain of personal loss is all-consuming. I admire the men and women, like Dr. King, who persevere. Erica Garner was one of those people. Despite the horror of watching videotape of her father, Eric Garner, choked to death by police, Erica Garner persisted until her heart could take no more.
Here’s Erica talking about the toll police violence takes on the families of victims. It would not be long before she, too, succumbed to a broken heart:
The Legacy of MLK: Dr. Roscoe Lewis McKinney, Ph.D.
by Amy Vilela – January 9, 2018
Dr. Roscoe Lewis McKinney was founder of the department of anatomy at the College of Medicine at Howard University. The first black man to earn a Ph.D. in Anatomy, Dr. McKinney established the department at Howard University, serving as chair and vice dean of the College of Medicine. He was a graduate of Bates College, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi honor society member, and Fulbright fellow. For half a century, McKinney taught and lectured around the world in divergent locations such as Iraq, India, and Saigon. He founded the first tissue-culture laboratory in the Washington, DC area, making Howard a focal point for advice in tissue-culture technique. Dr. McKinney's legacy in anatomy also includes his research in textbooks and his tissue samples as a standard in the reference text Grays Anatomy.
On a personal note, I find it painful and ironic that his great-granddaughter died due to discrimination in healthcare.
The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Amy Vilela – January 9, 2018
Next week we'll observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the days leading up to the holiday, I'll be talking about Dr. King's legacy and how I hope my campaign reflects his principles.
I'll also be paying homage to some unsung African-American heroes.