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Blog – Page 4 – Put People First! PA

Text and video by Krissy Mahan

HB1885 seeks to divide the people of Pennsylvania. There are 32 Counties in PA that have some type of policy restricting access of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to people in police custody.  Sanctuary Cities have a tremendous impact on the immigrant community and the state as a whole.  They have reduced deportations, kept families together, and created safer cities and towns.

HB1885 and efforts like it are a ploy by the powers that be to convince everyday citizens across our state that immigrants are the enemy – and therefore take attention off their own actions against the people, keep us divided into polarized political camps and prevent our unity. Put People First rejects this position. Healthcare is under attack, the environment is under attack, and jobs are under attack – and immigrants are not to blame. Immigrants are here because they are poor people, just like over 1 million people in PA. To understand why, read this article.

Put People First stands in solidarity with the New Sanctuary Movement (NSM). PPF supported NSM by having several members attend the October 24 action in Harrisburg and created two videos widely available while the vigil was still happening.
From the New Sanctuary Movement website:

“On Friday, Oct 21st, we held a ritual for Sukkot and All Night Vigil to take a strong stand against HB 1885.  During the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, we built a Sukkah and held a ritual to remind PA State Senators about the ancient values of hospitality and inclusion.  Then from 7pm to 7am, we held an all night prayer vigil outside during a cold, rainy and windy night.  Teams from different congregations brought prayers, songs and rituals throughout the night in order to send a firm message to PA State Senators to vote against this bill and for Governor Wolf to veto it.”

Check out videos from the vigil here:

A healthcare forum, hosted by the York O.C. of Put People First – PA in partnership with the York NAACP and Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez of York, was held on September 27, 2016 at the Crispus Attucks Community Center. Nearly 40 residents of York County across the spectrums of age, race, ability, gender, orientation and socioeconomic status gathered to share stories about everything from being “talked down to” in more ways than one as a patient in a wheelchair to difficulties with translation in the emergency room. Here are some reflections and takeaways – with an emphasis on next steps – from some of the PPF members who participated in the forum.
One consistent theme of the night was preventive treatment. Not all provider offices are fully set up to actually prevent illnesses from becoming chronic or life threatening. And not only that, I hear many folks share how devalued they feel as a patient.  That providers are not fully listening to actual need of patients. They just jump straight to the conclusions and treatments. What we fail to understand as healthcare professionals is that it really doesn’t matter what “we” think when being in front of a patient. But it’s all about hearing what the patient has to say. So many patients head to the ER where their need is heard and met quickly.
Affordability was also a key theme. Folks cannot simply afford the treatment these days. They cant afford prescriptions to help prevent illnesses.
Language barrier was another. There isn’t enough to bilingual staff to accommodate Hispanic people. This causes a mistrust with the Hispanic community because they don’t feel understood.
Also, the paperwork that providers ask patients to fill out are overwhelming. Many patients can’t understand how to fill them out.
Overall, there is a lack of communication regarding the medical services that are provided in our community. Continuity and communication are big issues.
– Shane Moore

Exorbitant drug costs, insurance companies changing formulas at whim, and the need for time and skill for advocacy to battle with gatekeepers all seem to be shared concerns.  People seemed to appreciate the chance to voice their grievances. I look forward to the opportunity  to give greater emphasis to the call for universal health care and single payer solutions. That message must be spoken and heard.  So few people even consider it as a possibility!  

I could see us looking for more opportunities to hear health care concerns, e.g. in combination with the PPF surveys, at malls, at market, and at community events. We could work more with the Latino community and providers to help them work towards possible solutions in terms of patient comfort. We could also do some training for volunteer advocates to take on the insurance gatekeepers on a case-by-case basis.

In  T.R. Reid’s book The Healing of America it is stated repeatedly that we need to “lay bare the moral question at the heart of our troubled system, dissecting the misleading rhetoric surrounding the health care debate”.  I believe we try to do that.  I think we must do more to create the political will for universal healthcare.  We really must engage everyone in the conversation that it is not only possible, but morally imperative AND our right to demand universal access to adequate care.
– Val Kater

The forum was covered further in the York Dispatch.

29979547992_f513390f22_oIsabella (Bella) Oliveras is an amazing leader who recently joined the blossoming Johnstown organizing committee. About a dozen people from Johnstown made the trip to Harrisburg for the Membership Assembly on October 1-2. Bella brought warmth and passion to the membership assembly. She called us to action, and she implored us to keep fighting until everyone has their basic needs met, including healthcare. Now, Bella is crowdfunding for a much-needed motorized wheelchair and healthcare. We can join together and help Bella get the care that she needs but that the current system won’t give her.

Bella is a veteran and a former nurse and paramedic. She has several chronic illnesses and health conditions, including carpal tunnel and asthma, which make her manual wheelchair difficult to use. Her GoFundMe reads:

Unfortunately, insurance will not approve Bella’s dire need for a motorized wheelchair despite a clear and justified case for it. So please consider making a contribution today to help raise the required funds needed for the motorized wheelchair, which is estimated to cost a minimum of $14,000; and to support ongoing additional medical expenses and current needs related to wheel chair adjustments, significant dental work, and assistance with medical fees i.e. cost-prohibitive medication. I know you would agree that NO ONE should have to choose between putting food on the table vs. purchasing life-saving medicine!”

To pledge your support to Bella, go to Help Bella Bounce Back!


By Farrah Samuels


I’m still riding high off the buzz I got from being at the 4th Annual PPF Membership Assembly (MA) — my first! I had no idea what to expect, but I’m incredibly grateful to and in awe of the organizers and members who made this an amazing and unforgettable experience.

Throughout the weekend, we talked in various discussion groups and through collective open forum about a concern many of us share: that we have a medical community, big pharma and legislators who are in it to make a profit, not to care for the people. I felt every word I heard of PPF members’ stories — many that were much like mine — made visible finally from their dark shadows via the unique, welcoming, and nurturing family atmosphere that PPF-PA provides. Over this weekend, I found a forum of like-minded individuals from all walks of life with a shared vision. And I was recharged, inspired, and invigorated to finally have found my tribe.

As I walked in, registered with Ben from Pittsburgh, and paid my dues, I heard the sound of some fierce music coming from another room at the Grace Methodist Church, luring me in. It was “Glory,” the poignant, Oscar-winning song from the Selma movie soundtrack. It was followed by some other liberation type tracks like those of my Marvin Gaye (yes, MY Marvin). PPFers were busy putting up signs, distributing supplies, and posing for my pics (thanks Maddie and Sheila), as other newer members from different organizing committees got to know each other and filled the seats. It felt like a really cool family reunion!

I met heroes, sheroes, and theyroes, who turned test after test into testimonies through guided group discussions led by volunteer group moderators. Collectively, we reviewed PPF-PA’s timeline of historical accomplishments and actions.  I’m grateful to those who shared stories with me and listened to mine. One in particular sticks out of one of our members who was a young teenager with sixteen siblings during the 1960s, when Johnnie Tillmon wrote her quintessential narrative on welfare, a guaranteed minimum wage for all, self-determination, gender equality and roles, etc. We read the piece aloud in groups reflecting on gender, identity, leadership, what has changed since the piece was written and what similarities exist today. And for a second, I felt a kindred spirit in Johnnie Tillmon just in reading the first paragraph and thinking of my current “situation.”

Through my conversations with others, I learned much that I will carry with me and spread to others. One example is the need to stop thinking of gender as simply binary or this or that. I don’t actually think that way, but I speak that way out of habit. And frankly, it can be insensitive and trivialize the lived experience of another person I care for. So I decided to pinch myself every time I forgot to use the pronoun, “they,” when referring to our family and friends who do not conform to binary gender norms. I also learned from the group I moderated and by observing the many roles members stepped up to fill, that leadership comes in many different forms and is not just the loudest lion that roars. I heard the rhythm of Carla’s drum during what I can only describe as an activist’s ideal revival moment put into a song in a musical intermission. Carla organized us as if we were a harmonious three-part gospel choir, with one group calling for freedom, another responding that it’s coming, and the beat of a collective human heartbeat going on in the background with every bang of that drum. It’s as if our own voices were pushing us forward with renewed strength and energy towards this freedom in its various forms.

During my assigned childcare shift in the playroom upstairs. We danced, played and I’m still picking traces of gold glitter off my face and out of my afro. I saw the future in the faces of our children, who will be ready to grab the baton when it’s time for us to pass it on!

I learned a couple really good dirty jokes from Bella and the feisty Mrs. Fletcher, who should definitely open a haberdashery and epitomizes who I wanna be like when I grow up. I made lifelong friends that feel closer to me than some I’ve had for years!

We were treated to a talent showcase and awards ceremony emceed by Terrence and Carla, while sharing a wonderful dinner together on Saturday evening. I was deeply moved and inspired by the great poets of our group, musicians, and sage voices of wisdom from award honorees like Danelle, Kim, and Anna and leaders like Phil, Willie and Gary. And I am grateful for the feeling of solidarity and the outpouring of love so readily given by everyone there. I particularly remember the warm, heartfelt, long hug I received from Munroe that still snuggles me in my dreams like a warm blanket these past few nights.

The greatest lesson of all from this weekend, is that when we work together for the greater good and lift each other up, we all win!


My eyes light up now when I see one of your posts on Facebook, or see an incoming call or text from a close friend who was a stranger to me just a short time ago! I know I am now part of a collective consciousness and family that truly has my back 100% no matter what!

The PPF-PA 4th MA was rejuvenating, life-transformative, and fueled with much needed hope, and inspiration to keep fighting on many fronts. We are not just numbers or names on a page. We are a diverse, unique, strong, compassionate, loving, intelligent, energetic walking, rolling, and crawling (baby Elijah) force to be reckoned with. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for; and in the words of the great Sam Cooke, “I know a change gon’ come. Oh yes it will.” For me, it already has just by showing up and participating in the 4th Annual Membership Assembly. Thank you all for sharing yourselves with me. Hope to see or hear from you soon.