This month is Black August, a time for all people to commemorate the fight for freedom and justice in America. During the month, we honor our thought-leaders and action-takers, and all those who sacrificed their life and freedom to liberate the Black mind. I say “mind,” because we all know that systems were established to entrap people who are “free” on paper. During Black August we celebrate Black excellence, but unlike Black History Month—which largely focuses on the Civil Right era—Black August shines a light on political prisoners, as it was created in the California penal system in the 1970s. Black August focuses on the fight against imperialism and colonialism. It’s a time for reflection and for recommitting ourselves to the decolonization of our minds. As we assess the damage caused by white supremacy, and in the midst of the largest civil rights uprising in history, Citizen Action will host a series of Black August discussions, starting on August 5. Click here to register.
We’ll be talking about the history of Black August, the need to release our incarcerated elders, and the current Black Lives Matter protests, among other topics.
In other news, the deadline to apply for New York’s rental assistance program was extended until August 6—ironically as evictions are set to begin. We’re still fighting to stop violent evictions, cancel rent and rehouse New York’s 92,000 residents who are without permanent homes. It’s a shame that we still have to ask for the most basic protections during a pandemic when tens of thousands of lives have been lost! The governor refuses to cancel rent and refuses to tax billionaires to help us recover from the pandemic. This week, an article in The Guardian revealed why that may be: campaign contributions!
This week’s leader spotlight goes to De’Jon Hall in Buffalo. De’Jon is a lawyer and a member of the city’s police advisory board, and has been with Citizen Action since December. De’Jon said he has always been active locally, especially with regard to policing issues. Although he has not had any major run-ins with police, he said he felt called to advocate for the community based on the horror stories he has heard and seen.
As a member of the police advisory board, De’Jon works with the Common Council by making recommendations on policing. We spoke at length about the initiatives the board has undertaken, including its 2018 briefing on body cameras, which set the standard for how body cameras should be utilized by the department. He said in 2019, the board stepped up their work to further address community concerns and is working to get the city to prioritize community policing and independent police oversight. De’Jon said his primary goal is to raise awareness, uplift his community, and to help ensure everyone can live an unencumbered life.
“At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires for your success.” – Dr. Robert M. Franklin
Around the State
Our Southern Tier chapter rallied at the Peoples’ Protection Coalition Protest in Cortland County— a protest in response to a package of bills released weeks ago by the New York Sheriff’s Association. Two out of 10 bills sought to raise the felony charge for resisting arrest and failing to retreat or halt when ordered by a police officer.
Response to the HEALS Act
As expected, Senate Republicans introduced a disappointing counter proposal to the House’s HEROES Act called the HEALS Act. The proposal cuts trillions in pandemic relief that was originally proposed by House Democrats. Click here to read our political director’s full statement.
Rise Up 2020 Launch Event
Join us Monday, August 3 at 8-9:30 p.m. for the Rise Up 2020 Launch Event with Bernie Sanders& People’s Action leaders, including our co-executive director Rockie Rivera! Let’s Get Out the Vote to elect people-powered candidates. People’s Action, our national affiliate, will be rolling out its Movement Politics program and announcing a new slate of candidates. Election Day is 100 days away! During this national kick-off event, we will learn from People’s Action leaders about what we need to do to defeat Trump and win in November. We’ll Let’s get out the vote and help win one of the most important elections of our time. Register here.
Rochester is one of 20 communities nominated for the National Civic League’s All-America City Award for demonstrating a commitment to leveraging civic engagement, collaboration, inclusivity, and innovation to successfully address local issues. One of the reasons for this recognition is the work that the school community and leaders with the Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action have put in to help students win, from helping lower suspension rates to achieving police free schools. Click here to read more.
Invest in Child Care
The House of Representatives passed the Child Care is Essential Act along with other measures to prevent the collapse of our nation’s child care system. The Child Care is Essential Act provides $50 billion in pandemic relief to strengthen states’ child care and after-school programs so they can safely reopen. Last week, Citizen Action and the Alliance for Quality Education participated in the Child Care is Essential Roundtable with members of the Congressional Delegation. Click here to watch the video.
The act recognizes that child care is a critical component of our nation’s recovery and reopening process. Without adequate funding, more than four million child care slots will be lost due to closures. As negotiations continue, we need Senator Chuck Schumer to make sure child care is fully funded. Call your representatives at (202) 224-3121 and ask for expanded paid leave protections, and tell them #ChildCare is essential.
Protect NY Heroes
Millions of workers are still inadequately protected from Covid-19, risking a second wave in already devastated communities. Click here to watch a video about what they’ve experienced and why we need to #ProtectNYHeroes.
This week, Citizen Action members and leaders took part in the launch of the Climate, Jobs and Justice Recovery action along with our partners at New York Renews. Covid-19 and the climate crisis are devastating Black, Brown, indigenous, and working-class communities. Click here to make your voice heard. Send Cuomo a fax to demand #ClimateJustice.
On Monday, July 27, our political ed team joined Libero Della Piana from the Alliance for a Just Society for the “What is a Public Good” workshop. The workshop delved into what constitutes a public good and the role that power plays in determining what’s a public good and how they’re governed. We discussed the victories of the Readjuster Party and how they built power to advance their progessive ideals and change the course of history. This was the first part of a two-part workshop. Part two, which will focus on shaping narrative around public good, is listed in Upcoming Events below.
“[Public goods] are the things we need to survive and thrive, but it is also a question of who controls them and who is responsible for protecting them.” – Libero
Monday, August 3 at 6:30 p.m. Join us for a workshop on Shifting to a Public Goods Narrative, which will be co-facilitated with the Alliance for a Just Society. Privatization of public goods is what we are up against when it comes to so many issues we fight. Privatizers and billionaires are willingly continuing communal suffering in order to make a profit. Click here to register and click here for more information.
Tuesday, August 4 at 6-9 p.m. Join us for “What’s Cooking? With Citizen Action. Food brings us together. Cook alongside us as we discuss issues of racial, social and economic justice. We’ll be joined this month by special guests Jasmine Gripper and Marina Marcou-O’Malley (AQE) to discuss the just reopening of schools. Click here for register.
Wednesday, August 5 at 12-1 p.m. Join us for a statewide Emergency Briefing and Rally for the federal HEROES Act, including the fight to expand Medicaid & SNAP, continue pandemic unemployment assistance, help out-of-work renters and mortgage-holders, protect Social Security and Medicare, fund universal mail-in voting, and keep state and local governments from slashing services! Click here to register.
Join the Movement
Citizen Action of New York is building power in communities across the state. Our members are the reason we’re able to do effective grassroots organizing and achieve justice for our communities. Our members give what they can when they can, and each contribution is directly invested in local leadership development. Click here to support.
There are many ways to get involved right now. Click here to contact a Citizen Action chapter in your area and ask how you can get involved locally.
“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done; discover your humanity and your love in revolution.” – George L. Jackson