Everyone’s been talking about U.S. Track and Field sensation Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension and subsequent exclusion from the Tokyo Olympics after she tested positive for marijuana. Sha’Carri admitted to using marijuana to cope with the passing of her mother and expressed accountability in knowing that it could potentially impact her career, but should it? This whole situation has sparked even more debate about the outdated and oppressive policies that continue to punish people—disproportionately Black and Brown folks—for marijuana use, even despite it being legal in a number of states. Marijuana is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances, but this incident is stirring calls for those rules to be reevaluated. A group of Congress members are calling on the agency to remove THC from the list of banned substances.
Sha’Carri’s public scolding by supporters and critics alike spotlighted deeper issues many Black and Brown people face: mass criminalization and the constant insensitivity to Black trauma. Black women, mothers, daughters, athletes, educators—no matter what role you serve in society—are often vilified for how they cope with trauma. An example of this treatment shows in the higher rates of suspension among Black youth when compared to their white classmates, and that’s just one example. The solution to Black trauma lies in having emotional, mental and physical health support in communities that have been historically disadvantaged. Oh, and we still need everyone serving time for marijuana convictions to be released and have their records cleared! A report released this week by our Western New York chapter dives into some of those solutions to uplift our communities and how American Rescue Plan funding can help get us there. You can read more about the report in our “Around the State” section below.
I also wanted to acknowledge some exciting news this week and send a huge congratulations to Zaila Avant-garde, the winner of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee! Zaila is the FIRST African American champion in the spelling bee’s 96-year history.
Around the State
Western New York Listening Sessions Report
This week, our Western New York chapter gathered at the Hamlin Park School to release their report on how federal and state pandemic-response resources should be equitably distributed in Buffalo. As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the city of Buffalo received over $300 million dollars. To ensure that this funding goes to where it would serve the most good, Citizen Action’s volunteer members organized three town hall forums that explored topics like public education, the criminal legal system, economic justice and climate justice.
More than 100 Buffalo residents attended the forums, all of which were held by video conference. The report is a reflection of the needs that were heard during the forums and makes policy demands at the state and local levels to ensure current and future federal and state resources are directly invested in the communities that need it most. Click here for the full report.
Closing the Diaper Gap in Central NY
Low-income families spend at least 14% of their income on diapers, which on average can cost $80 a month per child. This is a national crisis impacting 1 in 3 U.S. families. To help close the diaper gap locally, our Central New York chapter is hosting a drive to collect diapers and monetary donations towards the cause. They’ll also be conducting a survey to better assess Central New York families’ child care needs and are spreading the word about child care scholarships that are available to essential workers! Click here for more information about child care assistance. And click here to if you want to make a financial contribution to the diaper drive through the Public Policy and Education Fund. You can also find out more info on Facebook.
The chapter is accepting donations at the following locations:
Starting July 14 at 2- 4 p.m.
Location: Mohawk Valley Latino Association, 28 Scott St., Utica, NY 13501
Starting August 5 at 5-7 p.m.
Location: Jervis Library, 613 N Washington St., Rome
Ways to Take Action Now
Millions of people continue to be denied the freedom promised by #IndependenceDay. This promise must be reimagined and redefined to include everyone, and part of that freedom includes the right to vote. Congress still has time to pass the For the People Act to protect and expand the freedom to vote. Call Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today and urge him to pass For the People Act, the most significant voting rights bill of our time. Click here to action.
Wednesday, July 14 at 6 p.m.
Letter to the Editor Workshop
Join us for a Letter to the Editor writing workshop! We’ll go over some writing and submission tips! LTE’s are a great way to make our voice heard on current issues impacting our community, and can play a key role in pushing those issues forward. Feel free to bring a draft with you or brainstorm some ideas during our breakout groups on what your next or first LTE will be. Click here register: cit.ac/WriteLTE
Justice Works 2021 – Virtual Conference
Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18
Justice Works is New York’s premier conference bringing together hundreds of progressive organizers and activists from across the state to train, share, network, teach and learn with each other. Click here to reserve your spot now!
Justice Works features workshops, speakers and performances highlighting the community organizing and civic engagement currently being done in New York. This year, Justice Works 2021 will take place virtually July 17-18.
Tuesday- Thursday, August 10 and 12 at 6 – 8 p.m.
Our political education workshop series is back with the Reversing Runaway Inequality workshop on August 10 and 12! In this workshop, we will examine the massive level of economic inequality we bear in America today and what the current inequality looks like and how it came to be. Our economic system was built on exploitation of Black and Brown people and, in order to achieve economic justice, we must understand and dismantle the racism inherent in the system.
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.
“You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcolm X