Activist in Alaska fighting to end child hunger: "This is non-negotiable. We have to feed our children.”

The following post is courtesy of By 2015: AMERICA

Politics in Alaska are never dull. Community activist Kokayi Nosakhere should know. 

He had his first taste of public reaction when he returned from the Million Man March as a college student and thanked Minister Louis Farrakhan for convening the March in an editorial published in the Anchorage Times, then Alaska’s number one newspaper. Nosakhere also joined the Nation of Gods and Earths, treating the NGE as his college fraternity.

“I remember doors closing in my face after that,” Nosakhere said. “Million Man March was one of the most influential days of my life. All I experienced was love and unity. As a 21 years old kid I couldn’t see how anyone stood against it. The way I was treated made me angry. That’s when I decided to do my best to live up to the oath I accepted.”

In 1998, Nosakhere began a career serving children at the Camp Fire location inside of Fairview, the neighborhood which gave birth to him. Over the next decade he served in every capacity, from a home day-care to an institution for the emotionally disturbed.

In 2008, he helped register 1,126 new voters for a voter registration project led by the Anchorage Urban League Young Professional’s group.  In 2009, he successfully orchestrated a campaign to increase the state’s minimum wage 60 cents from $7.15 to $7.75.  Now, he is focused on child hunger.

Since 2010, Nosakhere has helped organize and champion a local non-profit, Children’s Meal Mission, which serves meals inside of Mountain View, an Anchorage neighborhood, where the school district counts 1,154 children are hungry. In a State swimming in oil money how are children hungry? Nosakhere states the answer lies in the arctic environment. The intense cold of the Alaskan winter prevents the establishment and maintenance of a state-wide road system. Thus, a $2.39 gallon of milk in Anchorage sells for $10.49 in Bethel.

With a third of the State’s population living outside of the three major cities, hunger is a major problem during certain parts of the year. However, a solution exists. It is called school feeding programs, better known as School Breakfast and Lunch. The challenge lies in the fact that Alaska is a Republican state, solidly carrying the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008. It is red.  The philosophy of personal responsibility is blared across talk radio, which is immensely popular. Thus, school meals are perceived by many lawmakers to be an entitlement.

“In 2009, Democratic State Senator Bill Wielechowski courageously put forth a Bill the anti-hunger network begged lawmakers two years for, A School Meals Bill,” Nosakhere said.  At that time he was working for Food Bank of Alaska as their Food Stamp Outreach Coordinator.

“Senate Bill 213 was a one time $1.9 million grant that affected 1 out of 2 public school students,” Nosakhere said. “Since 2009 the ego of one politician, Mr. Bill Stoltze, prevented the merits of a School Meals Bill from even being heard.”

Representative Bill Stoltze (Chugiach – R) is a 30 year Juneau political insider. He spent 20 years as a legislative aid. He has enjoyed status as an elected official for the last 10 years. Since 2009, he has served as Chair of the House Finance Committee. As Chair he possesses the authority to schedule Bills for a hearing. By not doing so, he effectively kills the chances for a Bill to be voted on by other lawmakers. By his sheer lack of attention, SB 213 died in Committee. Sen. Wielechowski (Anchorage – D) put forth the same Bill, calling it SB 3 in 2011.

Nosakhere, who transitioned from Food Bank of Alaska to become the Lead Coordinator of the By2015: AMERICA movement, watched as SB 3 received the same lack of attention as SB 213 did.

On January 3, 2012 Nosakhere held a press conference. He threatened the House Finance Committee and Rep. Stoltze that if SB 3 was not heard by Feb. 6, 2012 he would go on hunger strike inside the Capital until the democratic process moved forward.

For 12 days Rep. Stoltze ignored the brave activist.  The politician did not make his first statement ever about a School Meals Bill until the Anchorage Daily News confronted him. His thoughts were published on Feb. 18, 2012.  Stoltze stated that he did not “appreciate” a hunger strike outside of his office door. He framed the school meals program as an entitlement.

10 days later Stoltze made his second statement on television, restating his position. Again, he took offense to being the target of a pressure campaign. When the third statement came, 28 days into The Juneau Hunger Strike, Nosakhere threw in the towel.

“It became an ego pissing contest, instead of an opportunity for progressive political leaders to rally around a central issue,” Nosakhere said. “Only two Democratic lawmakers stood up for the Bill.”

Fortunately, all was not lost.  It appears that The Juneau Hunger Strike worked.  If it survives a veto from the Governor, the current $2.9 billion capital budget possesses a grant to school districts for $3 million. The Student Nutrition Alaska Food for Schools appropriation does what Nosakhere and the Alaskan anti-hunger network wants.

Nosakhere is happy with the developments, yet already focused on the next goal. “An Earth contacted us from Moreno County in California. We go where the people are calling us. She is serving 150 children a week and her space was just taken from her. We are in talks to put a creative solution around her. This is non-negotiable. We have to feed our children.”

(For more information on By 2015: America visit their official website @ http://kokayi137.wordpress.com/)


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