It’s Not Just Flint.

We know the immediate effects of the Flint, MI crisis—how the combination of “emergency management,” austerity politics, and irresponsible governance literally poisoned the children of a poor, majority-black city. Thousands of children are now at risk for stunted growth and reduced learning development due to toxic levels of lead ingested through their drinking water.

That means long-term deprivation and, most likely, more cycles of poverty in hard-working communities of color. Yet environmental racism and willful disregard for society’s most vulnerable have a far wider reach.

Think of Baltimore, where the rate of lead poisoning in children is three times the national average–all concentrated in a few racially segregated zip codes. Or Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” with its chemical- and refinery oil-laced water and air. Or, closer to home, the South Bronx, where health disparities from industrial pollution and repeated “industry dumping” in our nation’s poorest congressional district include asthma, enduring mental illnesses, and obesity.

This isn’t new. The systematic environmental abuse of the poor and communities of color is decades-long. But it’s time to demand that more resources—not less—be put into the neighborhoods that most need them.

Right now, you can sign the petition by our friends at Color of Change and demand that budget cuts to the Center for Disease Control’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program be restored to pre-2005 levels.

It’s a start. A stab at environmental justice. What’s happening in Flint must be prevented from happening elsewhere.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

MLKJr and other activists

Transformative Justice: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase. — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since those words were spoken, the United States has made significant progress toward becoming the nation it once set out to be — a land of equality. These advances came about because people with faith in a better future took action.

Think back ten years. What if someone had told you that with relentless volunteer action we would:

All these achievements in progressive politics began with the belief that inequality should and would be conquered. Then people like you stepped forward to make it true.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was lauded for his nonviolent approach to advocacy against inequality. However, we must never forget that he led a life of action and transformation. Nonviolent does not mean non-confrontational, nor does it mean non-political.

On the last day of his life, Dr. King was supporting a controversial movement for fair wages and safe working conditions for black sanitation workers. Let us move forward in the memory of him and others who fought before us for human rights and dignity. Let us carry on the work with the same spirit of truth.
Here are some ways to do that today.

TAKE ACTION:

Monday, Jan. 18th: #InvestMonday  with the Ferguson Action Team 

Full civil and human rights for Black Americans is not a struggle of the past. Black people in the USA live with the pain of racial and economic inequality every day.

Visit ReclaimMLK.com and text MLK to 90975 to learn more about realizing the dream today as we revive the true legacy of the civil rights movement in cities across the nation.

Monday, Jan. 18th 2pm: 14th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Interfaith Peace Walk

Organized by the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. The sites are:

  1. Holy Name of Jesus Church (96/Amsterdam) – where we will gather at 2 PM
  2. St Gregory the Great Church (90/Amsterdam)
  3. West Park Presbyterian Church (86/Amsterdam)
  4. St Paul & St Andrews / B’nai Jeshurun (86/West End Avenue)
  5. Rutgers Church (73/Broadway)
  6. Church of the Blessed Sacrament (71/Broadway) – for a reception (at approx. 4 PM)

GET INFORMED:

Learn more about some of the campaigns to address issues of racial and economic justice:

VOCAL-NY grassroots volunteers organize around issues that disproportionately affect people of color, including HIV/AIDS, the drug war, and mass incarceration. Their site provide updates and information on how to get involved.
Police Brutality disproportionately affects black people. Support efforts to pressure our national leaders to end this crisis so that all of us can live freely and safely.

WATCH:

Monday, Jan. 18th, 3 to 8 pm ‪#MLKNow‬

This live event at Riverside Church in Harlem is sold out but can be seen via Livestream: http://livestream.com/trcnyc/MLKNOW2016   Blackout for Human Rights and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) will host a celebration of the legacy of Dr. King, exploring how his message and vision continue to resonate in today’s racial, social, and political landscape. The event features historic speeches and musical performances by some of today’s leading actors and artists.
Panelists include Filmmaker and Blackout Member Ryan Coogler, Grammy-Nominated Hip Hop Artist J. Cole, Urban Cusp Founder and Publisher Rahiel Tesfamariam, Arab American Association of New York Executive Director Linda Sarsour, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice Executive Director Dante Barry, Filmmaker/Activist and Sakofa.org Co-Director Gina Belafonte; and Activist Leon Ford, Jr. Moderated by MSNBC National Reporter Trymaine Lee.

 

Nothing says “holiday” like home.

As 2015 winds down, we’re grateful to the dedicated volunteers and advocacy organizations who achieved victories in many areas, the Fight for $15, climate change, prison and sentencing reform among them. Yet in one area–housing our city’s growing homeless population–victory has been elusive. You can do something about that today.

Recently, the number of homeless men, women, and children living in NYC rose to over 59,000. That number includes the chronically homeless, people with severe mental illness or drug addiction and, according to Housing Works, some 6,000 people with HIV. Almost all want jobs and active lives that are impossible without safe, stable, affordable housing.

Since 1990, agreements between New York City and State have created 15,000 units of supportive housing statewide to alleviate this aspect of homelessness. But we still need more to aid our most vulnerable New Yorkers. Recently Mayor de Blasio unveiled a substantive proposal to build 15,000 more units in 15 years. Now we need Governor Cuomo to commit to a comprehensive, integrated approach.

WHAT IS SUPPORTIVE HOUSING?

An effective, cost-efficient model for affordable housing combined with site services that include job training and mental and physical health care delivery.

WHO BENEFITS?

  • Residents: Through dramatic improvements in emotional and employment stability
  • Government: By aligning and targeting public funds with nonprofit and community partners
  • Community: From significant tax savings through reduced expenditures for use of shelters, hospitals, emergency rooms, prisons, and jails

“AN ABDICATION OF RESPONSIBILITY”

These facts provided the rationale for the NY/NY agreements, an important series of city-state commitments. Since 1990, the agreements have created 15,000 units of supportive housing statewide.The need for a new and expanded program to replace the expiring NY/NY III agreement is growing. But the public feud between our state and city executives has blocked the kind of integrated approach embraced by their predecessors. While Mayor De Blasio has done his part, Governor Cuomo’s leadership is lacking. Earlier this year, the governor proposed building a mere 5,000 units–4,000 in NYC and an additional 1,000 statewide–an amount so tiny that the New York Times Editorial Board called it an abdication of responsibility.”

A statewide supportive housing program consisting of 35,000 units–30,000 in our city, 5,000 in localities across the state–over the next ten years would go a long way toward reducing the number of homeless residents in city and state. GNYCfC is advocating with the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing to get out this message.

Will you join us in this fight to reduce homelessness? Sign this petition today to help us tell Governor Cuomo and make your voice heard.

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Support NYS Gender Identity Discrimination Regulations

URGENT! Comment on the New Gender Identity Discrimination Regulations from the NYS Division of Human Rights before the official comment period ends:

Simply copy and paste the full letter below into your email, add your own name and address after “Sincerely,” and send to the email address cdowney@dhr.ny.gov
under the subject heading Gender Identity Discrimination Rule Change: Comment. (Alternately, a PDF of the same letter is available at the link below.) All comments must be received  no later than end of day on December 21, 2015:

December 9, 2015
Caroline J. Downey, General Counsel
NYS Division of Human Rights
One Fordham Plaza, 4th Floor
Bronx, NY 10458
.

Re: Gender Identity Discrimination ID No. HRT-44-15-00033-P New Section 466.13

I wish to voice my enthusiastic and unconditional support for an interpretation of sex discrimination in New York State Human Rights Law that will include discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. This more inclusive interpretation has been successfully adopted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and will guarantee all New Yorkers equal access to employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodations, and all areas covered by the Human Rights Law.

This change is a necessary and fair step to correct the severe and ongoing discrimination experienced by a deeply marginalized group of New Yorkers. For the first time, transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers will have equal access to legal redress against discrimination. All New Yorkers will benefit from a fairer and more inclusive interpretation of the law that will now protect all of us.

While noting that this change in interpretation of the New York State Human Rights Law will not endow transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers with full equal rights under the law, I recognize it as a necessary and laudable first step. I hope the New York State Division of Human Rights will give the proposed changes its approval, and look forward to the day when all New Yorkers share full legal protection from discrimination.

Sincerely,


GENDALetter

Climate activism is yielding results, but there’s more to do. 

Back in February, we brought together activists, politicians, and business interests to discuss local climate action in the age of big fossil. Much of the forum focused on the New York City Employee Retirement System (NYCERS), the city’s $160 billion pension system, and the potential impact of its divestment from targeted fossil fuel companies and investment in renewable energy.

On October 27th, New York City announced that the Trustees of NYCERS passed a resolution calling on the board “to begin the process of developing a long-term investment strategy that takes into account the realities and risks of climate change.” While this falls short of the goals of 350NYC and other organizations that call for full divestment from fossil fuel companies, it’s a vital first step.

More recently on the national front, TransCanada withdrew its permit application for the Keystone XL Pipeline, leaving them the option to re-apply in future.  In short order, instead of giving TransCanada that option, President Obama denied the permit! This is a victory for progressive activists and climate economists who have long opposed the pipeline.

Props to our partners at 350NYCUnited for Action and other groups for these positive results. We’ll stay vigilant as the NYCERS Board develops its strategy, and we continue to support the call to prevent the development of the Port Ambrose Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facility. State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Brad Hoylman are spearheading the effort to bring their fellow legislators on board to demand that Governor Cuomo veto Port Ambrose.

You can help today: Call your NYS Senator and Assembly Member to tell them you oppose Port Ambrose LNG and ask them to sign on to the Rosenthal/Hoylman 2015 Port Ambrose Opposition Letter. Then call Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390 and ask him to veto the project.

And don’t forget to ask that all public officials help make New York a renewable, fossil-free state.

350NYC's Divestment Rally. February 2015.

350NYC’s Divestment Rally. February 2015.

Economic Justice: A Real Living Wage for all New Yorkers

In 2011, we joined faith coalitions like the Micah Institute in the Living Wage NYC Campaign, and we continue to support the Fight for $15. Still, we know that even a substantial increase in the minimum wage is no substitute for a real living wage.

According to a 2014 report by the Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement titled Overlooked and Uncounted: The Struggle to Make Ends Meet in New York City, over 940,000 New York City households lack enough income to cover the bare necessities of life. Women and people of color with higher levels of education still struggle with income inadequacy. In even our least expensive neighborhoods, the wage a mother needs to support herself and one child without public assistance is several dollars more than $20 per hour. A higher percentage of NYC households survive on an insufficient income than in Mississippi and several other states.

A Faith-Rooted Response 

The Micah Faith Table, a coalition of multi-faith leaders from across New York, is launching the Real Living Wage NYC Campaign to address these and other unjust economic issues. The goal of the campaign is to ensure that all workers in New York City receive at least $20 an hour–the wage required to meet basic needs without government subsidies. In other words, the aim is to trans­form the minimum wage in our city into a Real Living Wage.

Religious communities play a vital role in establishing economic justice for the whole society. Scriptures of every time, place, and faith cry out on behalf of the poor, seeking justice as well as mercy. In a critical sense, houses of faith form a unified moral body in our city, and aim to make that unity manifest by transforming a faith-based vision into reality. That is why the foundation for the Real Living Wage Campaign is being built in the interfaith religious community.

Join in Solidarity

As a secular progressive organization that builds coalitions with faith-based groups on behalf of economic justice, we encourage you to read more about the campaign here. Help make New York City a leader as a Real Living Wage City!

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