An Election Cause

In Florida, individuals convicted of a felony are stripped of their civil and voting rights, even after completion of their sentences. Loss of civil rights takes away not only the right to vote, but also the right to hold public office, serve on a jury, and qualify for certain types of state licenses necessary for many jobs, such as those in the construction and medical fields.

In order to restore those rights, a person with a past felony conviction must apply for Restoration of Civil Rights (RCR). Only the Governor and the Executive Clemency Board have the power to restore those rights. The entire process is complicated and takes years. Even then, there is no guarantee an individual’s rights will be restored.

Florida is one of only three states that strip all citizens with past felony convictions of their civil and voting rights for life. In Florida, this voting and civil rights ban dates back to the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War when newly-freed slaves were granted the right to vote. Florida officials responded by enshrining this policy into the state constitution, leaving African Americans with little voice in their government for years to come. Today, nearly one in three African-American men in Florida cannot vote because of this system.

The struggle to end Florida’s voting ban against people with past felony convictions took a dramatic new turn. Florida State Senator M. Mandy Dawson filed language for a ballot initiative to place an amendment to the Florida Constitution on the statewide ballot. The constitutional amendment, if passed, would remove the lifetime voting and civil rights ban against people with past felonies — a ban that has been in our state constitution since 1868 — and restore individuals’ civil and voting rights after completion of their sentences.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), a non-partisan statewide coalition of nearly forty local, state and national organizations dedicated to achieving permanent reform through a state constitutional amendment, voted to support the ballot initiative through its own campaign to place the amendment on the ballot. The FRRC, which was formed at an ACLU-sponsored statewide meeting of organizations and activists in Tampa in March 2003, will organize local working groups to coordinate signature-gathering in various areas of the state. Local ACLU chapters will also be participating in the signature-gathering effort. Nearly 500,000 signatures are required to place the amendment on the ballot.

Of course, they’re only inerested in forms from people who live inside FL but I’m sure that a flood of petitions from around the country would make these throwbacks realize that the country is watching.

source:  ACLU

It’s really fRee!

Among the free things list in the Woman’s Day article “Surprising things you can get for free” is free language lessons! Here’s what they say:

Want to learn the basics of practical spoken Spanish? Sign up (some classes are 12 weeks) and you’ll get weekly e-mails from a teacher with lessons and learning tips. You can also learn French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Mandarin Chinese and more. Go to

Why’s it free? The BBC, one of the world’s largest broadcasting corporations, is on a mission to enrich people’s lives with programs and services that inform, educate and entertain.

10th Annual International Latino Book Awards

Best Young Adult Fiction – Spanish
Samuel Maximo y Niketon – Ariel Gonzalez – Libros en Red

2nd Place: La Gran Aventura Jordi – Sierra I Fabra – Editorial Bambú

Best Young Adult Nonfiction – English
Ay Mijo! Why do you want to be an engineer? – Edna Campos Gravenhorst

Best Young Adult Nonfiction – Spanish
La disciplina hasta los tres años – Jeanne Lindsay y Sally McCullough – Morning Glory Press

2nd Place: El reto de los párvulos – Jeanne Lindsay – Morning Glory Press

Best Young Adult Nonfiction – Bilingual
Mi sueño de América / My American Dream – Yuliana Gallegos – Arte Público Press

Complete list.

Two Grants

Making The Dream come true! The Corps Network is offering grants supporting service projects in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. The projects must involve a diverse group of volunteers and address conditions related to poverty in their community. Preference is given to projects mobilizing the greatest number of volunteers.

Grant range: $1,000 – $10,000. Deadline: September 23, 2008.
More info:

Furthermore…The Laura Jane Musser Fund support projects that build relationships across cultural lines in areas that include youth, community service and the arts. Grant range: $5,000 – $25,000. Deadline: October 1, 2008.
More info:


From Bill Zimmerman, has launched a new WRITER PROMPTS feature that regularly offers educators new ideas to spark students’ imaginations and encourage them to write more.

The new writing tool is a direct result of the overwhelming positive user response to our free web site where children and adults create their own comic strips online and, in so doing, practice language, writing and reading skills. WRITER PROMPTS utilizes interactive techniques that I have pioneered as author, journalist and teacher to help people of all ages find their writers’ voices and express their deepest thoughts.  Go to

At the WRITER PROMPTS blog site selected students’ written responses will be posted, reinforcing students’ writing and language-learning efforts.  Please try the new feature and give us your feedback and suggestions. We also will post some of your own suggested writing prompts if you give us permission. Send them to

Since we launched our educational comics site in 2006 hundreds of thousands from 175 countries have visited us.  And, Google and UNESCO selected as one of the world’s most innovative web sites in fostering literacy and reading  (

Some sample writing WRITER PROMPTS offered:
.You are an author rewriting the story of your parents’ lives.  How would you change their lives, what would you say?  The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you can use your imagination to create different worlds from what you know. If you’re feeling unhappy in real life, for example, you might want to create a world in which you feel happy. If you are poor, you might want to imagine a story in which the characters are rich. You can change a story about your parents or family into something entirely different.

.Three children in different parts of the world wake up one morning, each expecting the day to be like all the others. For one, in Mexico, this will turn into the most important day of her life; for another, in China, the day will be the happiest she will ever experience in her life, and for the third, in Chicago, this will become his saddest one. Write one of the children’s diaries for the day.

.You are a six-year-old Pakistani boy sold into servitude by his family to labor 14 hours a day in a carpet factory. Your enslavement will help settle a $16 family debt. You spend the next six years chained to a rug loom, working 12-hour days for pennies. Then comes the day when you escape to freedom   — here’s what happens:

Users of make comics strips by selecting from 15 fun characters with different moods  — happy, sad, angry, worried — and write words for  blank talk and thought balloons to make characters talk and think.  This site is used by educators to teach language, reading and writing skills, and also for students in English-as-a-Second-Language programs to facilitate self-expression and storytelling, as well as computer literacy. Some educational therapists use the online comics with deaf and autistic people to help them understand concepts and communicate.  Parents and children can create stories together, print them to create comic books or email them to friends.  Others will find the site a resource to be creative and have fun.

Acting on your feedback, now also enables users to write comic strips in languages other than English, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin and Portuguese.  Many foreign language teachers encourage language practice by having students create comic strips.

Please share with your colleagues, students, friends or readers of your publications and  favorite listserv groups.  It takes a community to build and nurture a rich educational resource.

Obama/McCain: On Service

The Taproot Foundation is a proud member of the Service Nation
coalition, which consists of more than 100 of America's top service
organizations. Service Nation is sponsoring a presidential forum on
Thursday at which both John McCain and Barack Obama will answer
questions about service. It will mark only the second time during this
campaign that the two will share a stage.  The event is being moderated
by Time Magazine's Richard Stengel and PBS' Judy Woodruff, and will be
televised live on CNN and other channels at 8:00 EST.

While Taproot doesn't endorse either candidate, they do believe that all Americans
should know where the candidates stand on the issue of service.