Black August is approaching! Since the 1970s, it’s been an annual celebration in honor of fallen Black revolutionaries and Black resistance to racial oppression. Each year, it’s an opportunity to renew our commitment to turning white supremacy on its head and beat back destructive narratives that perpetuate harm against historically marginalized communities. During Black August, we pay homage to political prisoners past and present.
Here is an excerpt from the Center for Constitutional Rights on the significance of Black August: “We celebrate all the political prisoners who have helped us understand that prison is political and that our collective freedom depends on abolishing the state’s capacity, through incarceration, policing, and surveillance, to disrupt communities and diminish principled struggle against the unjust status quo.”
This year’s observance is especially important as debates around solutions to community violence take center stage. The cycle of harm we’re seeing across the state weighs on many of us. As activists with strong ties to the movement for collective liberation, we know that we all deserve to feel safe. Governor Cuomo’s declaration of a gun violence state of emergency brings much-needed attention to this issue, especially when it comes to under-resourced communities that need support to address the root causes of harm. However, there must be a fundamental shift in how we think about reaching that goal. Republicans and some status quo Democrats are weaponizing our right to safe neighborhoods, using instances of community violence to attack our historic, progressive bail reform victory. Some go as far as to blame movements for justice for the violence. Oppressive policing and mass criminalization will not keep us safe. Making sure that families have safe and stable homes, access to education, job opportunities, mentorship and health care can and will make a difference. Impacted communities must have the autonomy to address harm without further entrenching systems of oppression. Discussions around safety cannot exclude the voices of those who are impacted first-hand. As progressives, we understand that solutions to community violence must be equitable, support survivors, and center restorative justice and human dignity.
Around the State
There’s been a lot happening at our regional chapters since Justice Works, our premier annual conference. The city of Albany made history with the passage of its Good Cause eviction legislation, which stops landlords from removing tenants without a court order, or because the tenant demands safe living conditions. This is a people-powered victory! Testimony from property owners and tenants, calls and emails to council members, rallies, letters to the editor and op-eds all contributed this this win. The law’s best feature is that it safeguards tenants from retaliatory evictions. Our Utica chapter joined members of the Utica Common Council to officially launch its Good Cause eviction platform. The chapter’s push comes after an apartment complex was shut down by Utica city officials, displacing dozens of low-income residents. With Good Cause, tenants in Utica will have the power to fight for repairs before properties fall into disrepair.
Coming Together Through Service
Our regional chapters are continuing to work with other progressive community groups to provide mutual aid during this challenging time. In addition to canvassing to bring as many community voices to the table as we fight for a just pandemic recovery, our chapters are also hosting community events to welcome new members and create spaces for current members to socialize and reflect on our shared goals. On July 24, Citizen Action members in Western New York joined community groups for a successful community day in the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood in Buffalo. The event brought folks together for food, fellowship and fun.
Diaper Drive in Central NY
Our Central New York chapter launched its diaper drive and has seen an outpouring of support! The diapers are being redistributed to families in need, and the chapter is also taking this opportunity to gauge the community’s child care needs. Click here to find out more on Facebook, including about drop-off locations available to make a donation. Click here if you wish to make a financial contribution to the diaper drive through the Public Policy and Education Fund.
Tuesday, August 10 at 5:30 p.m.
Kingston City School District Coalition Meeting
Join the KCSD Coalition for Equity and Equality in Education for their first in-person meeting! Food and childcare will be provided. Click here for more info.
Saturday, August 7 at 6 p.m.
Black August: New York Statewide Abolitionist Day of Action
Join our Southern Tier chapter and other community groups for a statewide day of action in support of the abolitionist movement and alternatives to policing. This day of action will include multiple simultaneous anti-police actions in cities across New York. Join us! Click here for more information and here to find an action near you.
Sunday, August 1 at 6 p.m.
What is Black August? Demand Justice
Our Rochester chapter is kicking off Black August with a film screening! The chapter’s Demand Justice Committee is joining the region’s Black August Organizing Committee to host the screening of “George Jackson Lives,” as part of the Visual Studies Workshop. The event will take place at 31 Prince Street in Rochester. Check out our Rochester chapter’s Facebook page for more information. Click here.
Statewide Political Education
August 10, 11 and 12
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 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. 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.
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“Where there’s people, there’s power.” – Fred Hampton