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WESPAC Membership Dues 2016

Dear Members and Friends of WESPAC,

freedom-to-boycott-march-in-mt-kisco-7-6-16

Protesting NYS Gov Cuomo in his hometown of Mt. Kisco, NY. WESPAC was the anchor organization for this protest organized by the Freedom to Boycott Coalition of NYS of which WESPAC is a member. July 6, 2016. Photo courtesy of Pauline Park.

First, we would like to thank you very much for your support of WESPAC over the past year.

The last few years have been extremely important and also challenging times for our movements. WESPAC continues to play a crucial role locally and beyond. 

Over the past year, we have worked together to oppose racialized policing, supported the #BlackLivesMatter movement locally and hosted several prisoner writing sessions at our office, centrally located in downtown White Plains.  We have marched in Manhattan, Albany and Mount Kisco to demand that Governor Cuomo rescind his unconstitutional executive order blacklisting organizations that support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement which calls upon Israel to respect Palestinian human rights.  We have supported and marched with our immigrant rights allies to support better working conditions for New York State farmworkers, and we have marched with mothers and grandmothers from Harlem who led us to Albany to demand justice for the wrongfully incarcerated.

The only way we can continue our work is with your help.  Dues are $100 per person annually, or $50 for students and persons with a fixed income.  We are grateful for all levels of support and no one is turned away for lack of funds.  Volunteer hours are welcome in lieu of payment and can be arranged with the office.  Please make your tax-deductible contribution today securely at https://wespac.org/donate/ or by check to WESPAC, 31 Mamaroneck Ave, Suite 403, White Plains, NY 10601.  We are asking for all dues to be received by September 30th.

WESPAC has been part of the leadership of the local campaign for police accountability in Westchester County.  We have hosted film screenings and presentations on a wide range of social justice topics from military occupation and mental health, to hosting a screening of Michael Moore’s latest film “Where to Invade Next” which brought in a full house.  We have also worked with young farmers and farmers of color to support a more just food system. We continue to promote Community Supported Agriculture and connect people across the county who believe fresh, local, quality produce is a human right for all.

With your participation and support, we can continue to provide the space and support for high school and college students as they develop their organizing skills and become the next generation of agents for progressive social change. Recently, students have come from White Plains High School, Croton Harmon High School, Columbia University, Purchase College, Pace University, Iona College and Trinity College. 

We are proud of the role we continue to play as a hub for grassroots organizing with a mission to strengthen movement building in the promotion of human rights and self-determination for all communities.  We need your support to make this cherished community institution stronger! 

Our next general meeting will take place on Monday, September 26th at 6pm at our office space located at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue (4th floor) in downtown White Plains at the intersection with Martine Avenue.

Thank you for supporting our work.  Together we can change the world.

For the WESPAC Community,

Teresa Delgado, WESPAC Board Chair and Nada Khader, WESPAC Director

 PS.   Every tax-deductible donation you make goes to support our critical work for social justice and peace.  Please like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter! 

 

www.wespac.org       Facebook: Explore WESPAC            Twitter: @WESPAC_NY

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Frontpage, Movement Building

Solidarity Vigil with Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance

dakota-acces-pipeline

What: Solidarity Vigil with Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance

WhenWednesday, September 14, 2016, 12pm to 1:30pm

Where: The Fountain in Downtown White Plains (Intersection of Main Street and Mamaroneck Ave), White Plains, NY 10601

Solidarity Vigil with Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance. We will also link to the resistance locally working to STOP the Spectra Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (AIM), which is planned to run next to the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Spectra AIM Pipeline is being built by the same company as the Dakota Access Pipeline.  We will have a few signs but please also bring signs.

Speakers: Ms. Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation), President of the American Indian Law Alliance and Ms. Karenna Gore, Director for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, as well as local Westchester County residents who recently traveled to the Sacred Stone Camp in Lakota Territory [North Dakota].

Sponsors: WESPAC Foundation, American Indian Law Alliance, Center for Earth Ethics, Resist Spectra Pipeline, Friends of Turtle Island Committee-WESPAC. 

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Environmental and Food Justice, Friends of Turtle Island, Frontpage, Movement Building

WESPAC Plot at Bethel Baptist Community Gardens

Bethel Baptist

A big thanks to Sadie’s initiative at the Bethel Baptist Community Gardens in White Plains.  The WESPAC plot has produced dozens of pounds of fresh produce for the Open Arms Men’s Shelter in downtown White Plains.  Thank you, Sadie, and to all who have volunteered!

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Community Gardening, Director's Blog, Environmental and Food Justice, Frontpage

The Freedom to Boycott for Justice and for Human Rights

Freedom to Boycott

Letter to the Westchester Jewish Council from Howard Horowitz:

Dear Elliott, Shabbat Shalom,

I am writing to express my deepest concern and objection to the decision taken by WJC to actively endorse legislation that in its spirit and in its specifics is unconstitutional and an assault on free speech. The call for a legislated ban or boycott of businesses that want to participate in a voluntary boycott of Israel until it ends the occupation and the ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights is hypocritical, and is a blatant effort to silence dissent. You do not even distinguish between boycotting Israel and boycotting settlement enterprises on stolen Palestinian land.  As a respected member of the business community for over 40 years, and as owner of a business for over 30 years, I have the right to participate and have my business participate in a nonviolent movement without fear of recrimination from my own government. The problem here is the Israeli occupation and the settlements, which have been deemed illegal according to international law and which violate the moral code I believe you and I abide by. The occupation and the settlements, which are expanding as I write this, put Israel in grave danger and ultimately will spell a disaster  for the country.  From this perspective, participating in the BDS movement is a more “pro-Israel” stance than is the position you advocate.  Yet, I and others are threatened with legal and financial retribution from our  local and state governments should we see the violence of the occupation and the expanding settlements and want to register dissenting voice against it by participating in nonviolent action to stop it.

I am confident you are aware that this legislation emerges out of an organized intimidation campaign developed by the Netanyahu government and its supporters in Israel, and propagated by ZOA and AIPAC. As a citizen of this county and this state, I must conclude that that our local politicians are being held hostage and our legislators and governors have been put in a bind.  Has the state been blackmailed into making dissent illegal?  How many millions of Jews and others—including our immediate forefathers in the 1950s—have been persecuted by this form of McCarthyism? This is the realization of the worst fears of the Jews and of the Reform movement in particular; that is, the fear of Zionist and Israeli meddling in our internal affairs. Jewish history teaches us to beware and to be wary of any effort to silence dissent.  Given our collective history, any organization that claims to represent Jews and their organizations in our community must question not support the wisdom and efficacy of punitive legislation in a free society.

Israel is in the gravest of danger, not from BDS, but from its own actions and policies. There is real danger that Israel will succumb as a result of the ascendancy of the right wing, fundamentalist, religious dominated parties that have no tolerance and no love for the liberal democracy we want and claim Israel to be. This can only spell disaster for the country.   The people we so want to identify with in Israel—the secular, progressive, liberal religious segments of politics and society—need us now more than ever to just say “no” to draconian policies and legislation, including the legislation you have endorsed today. 

By your words and actions, you are also nurturing the ever-growing divide in the Jewish community and the ever-increasing alienation of Jewish youth. I have confidence the Reform movement will not long stand for this kind of undemocratic censorship by the powerful over the powerless.  We cannot be blinded by what we are being told is “kosher” pro-Israel-ism.  We are fed such hateful propaganda  that we refuse to see not only the truth of what is going on in Israel, but the tremendous harm it will bring to Israel and its future.  Do you really believe that to ban BDS strengthens the forces of progress, peace and justice in Israel?  If there is no BDS alternative for bad behavior, what tools do the forces of progress have to influence the behavior of the Israeli government not only toward Palestinians but towards secular, Jewish society in Israel? 

More and more American Jews are coming to understand the situation in Israel as I do.  There will come a day—and I hope it will not be too late—that Jews in the US will say “no” and withdraw support from and take real actions against the fundamentalists (with Netanyahu the false, friendly face of a government that is out of line with our values) who currently dominate the discourse and the policies in Israel. Once that happens, an Israeli government that is in line with our values will thrive and succeed. It is time to rethink what it means to be pro-Israel.  I hope you will understand what is at stake here.

I will close with this: I believe in “never again” and so I will not remain silent within my Temple, in the Jewish community and in the wider community nor refrain from expressing my opposition to this legislation and to the WJC’s endorsement of it. I urge you to convey to the Board of Legislators to let this legislation die quietly.   

Respectfully,

Howard Horowitz

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Frontpage, Militarism and Foreign Policy, Movement Building, Racial Justice

Hundreds Come Out in Support of Police Accountability

BLM 2

Hundreds Come Out in Support of Police Accountability 

By A. Surya Peterson

(Photos from this march available on WESPAC’s Facebook Page: Explore WESPAC)

Hundreds of people participated on Thursday, July 14th in a rally and march for justice in downtown White Plains, NY, organized by the White Plains Ministers Fellowship Council.  Reverend Lee Trollinger, the President of the White Plains Ministers Fellowship Council, served as the lead organizer and invited clergy and community leaders from all over Westchester County to participate.

 

The march started at the Calvary Baptist Church at 6:30pm where clergy led the large gathering of people in prayer.  Elected officials were among those present including the City of White Plains Mayor Roach, White Plains City Council members Nadine Hunt-Robinson and Milagros Lecuona, NYS Assembly member David Buchwald and NYS Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins.  People held signs from the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform that read: “Black Lives Matter”; “#ThisStopsToday”; “Stop Police Impunity”.  One large banner read: “White People for Black Lives”.

 

The first stop along the route was 135 South Lexington Avenue where WESPAC Director Nada Khader was invited to re-tell the story of the police killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr, in November 2011.  Rev. Lynn Dunn, Minister for Christian Education and Spiritual Formation at the White Plains Presbyterian Church led the gathering in prayer.  Kenny Lee, a retired White Plains Police Officer, played “Taps” in honor of the loving memory of former marine Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

 

The marchers then stopped in front of the White Plains Department of Public Safety to hear from the White Plains Police Chief Anne FitzSimmons who recited the Saint Francis of Assisi prayer for peace and was also followed by Kenny Lee’s “Taps”.  The group then made its way to Court Street where the White Plains Police Department had cordoned off the section of the road and prepared a show mobile for the clergy speakers.

 

Reverend Franklyn Richardson of the historic Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon addressed the crowd.  Rev. Richardson is the Chairman of the National Action Network, an activist group founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton.  He offered some suggestions for addressing the state of racialized policing today.

 

Imam Ali from Yonkers, a religious cleric of the Islamic tradition, shared his vision of a brighter America where we will all live in unity and respect for one another.  He was followed by Reverend Kymberly McNair, the Minister of Community Education and Engagement at the Bedford Presbyterian Church, who shared with us the challenges in confronting institutional racism in our society.  

 

Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr, the son of police slain Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., spoke about the need for police accountability and reform.  He is a co-founder of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform of which members were very visible in the crowd.  The demands of this coalition include working to:

 

  • Establish independent oversight structures with subpoena power in order to review the policies and practices of law enforcement agencies, investigate cases of police misconduct, and impose sanctions.
  • Implement clear and current protocols within all police departments addressing the use of force continuum, as well as proper handling of emotionally troubled individuals, with an emphasis on deescalating confrontations without resorting to violence.
  • Make the rules and regulations of all police agencies available to the public.
  • Review and reform the training program of the Westchester Police Academy, with particular focus on proper means to deescalate situations through non-violent methods.
  • Centralize in-service police training to encourage sharing of best practices and reduce financial costs.
  • Expand the use of Crisis Intervention Teams throughout Westchester County.
  • Increase police department efforts to recruit from a diverse officer applicant pool, so that departments more accurately reflect the communities they serve. 
  • Reassess police department promotion policies in order to advance more African-American and Latino officers into positions of leadership.

 

State-level Demands:

 

  • Establish a special prosecutor to investigate and discipline police misconduct.
  • Create an independent entity to review the policies and practices of law enforcement agencies throughout the state and propose necessary reforms.
  • Require that all police interrogations be recorded.
  • Prohibit custodial arrests for violations – arrests where an officer has discretion to issue a summons or arrest an individual.
  • Close the loophole that treats possession of small amounts of marijuana differently depending on whether or not it is in public view – a citation versus a misdemeanor.

The next meeting of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform will take place on Thursday, July 28th at the Thomas H. Slater Center located at 2 Fisher Court in White Plains, NY, at 6:30pm.

 

The Director of the Thomas H. Slater Center, Heather Miller, spoke about the importance of voting and registering to vote.   She explained that the formerly incarcerated are allowed to vote in New York State and that part of making change is participating in the electoral process.

 

The last presentation was from Jirrell Abraham, a local poet and spoken word artist and member of the H.I.P.H.O.P. group  Highly Important People Healing Our Planet.  His performance is available on social media.

 

Several community organizations were present for the march including the Westchester Martin Luther King Institute for Nonviolence (the MLK Institute convenes the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform), the Urban League of Westchester, the Anti Racist Alliance of Westchester, the African American Men Of Westchester, the Theodore Young Community Center, the Loft LGBT Community Center,  Mount Vernon Tenants Association, Westchester Disabled on the Move, WESPAC, Hope’s Door and several more.  Families came out with children on their strollers and members of the Police Guardians Association were with us on motorcycles.  We were just steps from where Westchester County Police accidentally killed Mount Vernon Detective Christopher Ridley in a scuffle outside of 85 Court Street in January of 2008.

The march and gathering represent a significant step towards improving police and community relations with greater accountability and transparency for all.

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Criminal Justice, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Frontpage, Movement Building, Racial Justice

March for a Clean Energy Revolution – Sunday, July 24th

To Change Everything, We Need EveryoneCERLogo_FINAL-resized

This was the call to action for the historic People’s Climate March in September, 2014.  Over 400,000 people marched in NYC.  Imagine a moment of silence held by over 400,000 people–  a shared moment of solidarity, hope, and the knowledge that the time is now; we CAN change everything—keep fossil fuels in the ground, create a renewable energy future, ensure our most vulnerable are empowered, and transition to a green jobs economy.

The Time for Action is Now

To Reserve your Bus Ticket from the North White Plains Train Station, go to http://www.cleanenergymarch.org/transportation/.

 

Be a part of the historic March for a Clean Energy Revolution on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.  During the Convention, the Democratic party will solidify its political platform.  We’ll make sure they can’t miss the masses who are calling for a Clean Energy Revolution. Many of the Democratic leaders and delegates understand the necessity, but we need to create the political will that comes only from tens of thousands of engaged citizens demanding what is needed, what is right and just.

Who do you identify with?  Join a contingent!

Join Us on the Bus from North White Plains to Philly!

 

Whether you choose to join the Faith Contingent, another group, or just stay with your local community of travelers, please join us on the bus.   All peace-loving change-makers welcome!  

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Environmental and Food Justice, Frontpage, Movement Building

Protest Governor Cuomo’s Unconstitutional Executive Order

Freedom to Boycott

March to Governor Cuomo’s home in Mount Kisco to demand he rescind unconstitutional executive order that blacklists institutions that support BDS 

Wednesday, July 6th

6:00 PM     Assemble at the Mt. Kisco Metro North Station

6:20 PM     March to Gov. Cuomo’s Home from the train station

The march to Gov. Cuomo’s home will take 20 – 30 minutes.  We will be marching West on Route 133 or Millwood Road.  Please let us know if you are unable to march and need a ride to Gov. Cuomo’s home.  

RSVPs requested, including your name, the name of your organization if any and how many people will be coming with you to [email protected].  The New York State Coalition for the Freedom to Boycott will provide signs, song sheets and chants.  To read more about Governor Cuomo’s order, visit: http://palestinelegal.org/

      Train Schedule for July 6th from Grand Central Station:
Leave Grand Central                     Arrive Mt. Kisco
4:57                                                      5:49
5:04                                                      6:08
5:27                                                      6:19

Leave Mt. Kisco                        Arrive Grand Central
7:40                                                         8:41
8:16                                                         9:22
8:35                                                         9:36

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Frontpage, Militarism and Foreign Policy, Movement Building, Racial Justice

Please Join Us on Thursday at 7:30pm for a Candlelight Vigil

Orlando Vigil

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Frontpage, Movement Building

WESPAC Annual Awards Dinner, 2017

Please consider making an additional contribution to allow students and fixed income the opportunity to attend.

$

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Frontpage, Movement Building, Racial Justice

WESPAC Community Self Reliance Celebration

“Filling Bellies and Expanding Minds at Thomas H. Slater Center”

                                                      By Imani McCallafood justice

Building on campaigns to promote and educate on healthy food for those who are unable to access it, local farmers and activists joined WESPAC’s Food Justice Committee in celebrating our community self-reliance at the Thomas H. Slater Center on Thursday evening, February 25th, 2016.

Executive Director of WESPAC Foundation, Nada Khader, introduced Lineage Farmer and founder of Good Food For Hudson, Jon Ronsani, to discuss this food justice project he is building with his partner, Jen Ronsani, and many others.  Good Food for Hudson provides 20 weeks of farm fresh vegetables to low-income families in Hudson, New York, on a free and sliding scale basis. Ronsani had just completed his first season of the program and is now setting up a fundraiser to do the same program, adding new foods to his produce. He will introduce fresh farm eggs from Hearty Roots Farm and Camphill Copake’s fresh baked bread. Khader asked everyone to donate money for his campaign, raising more than $500.00 that evening for Good Food for Hudson.

To demonstrate how they grow and supply their produce to those who cannot afford healthy food, Ronsani presented his film, Good Food For Hudson.  “We believe that access to good food is a basic human right;  it is not a luxury,” said Executive Director of Hawthorne Valley Association, Martin Ping. “We are still actively exploring what role Hawthorne Valley may play in bringing food access into Hudson and the project with Lineage Farm; acting as a fiscal sponsor for Good Food For Hudson seems like a very logical first step.”

Alderwoman for D-2nd Ward Hudson Tiffany Garriga described the limited access to transportation for families to get the necessary nutrition in Hudson: “We have two supermarkets but it’s farther out, entering the next town, so if you don’t have a car or anything and rely on taxi services, it’s hard for you to shop.”

Lord Judah, emcee for the event and manager of music group H.I.P. H.O.P., which stands for Highly Intelligent People Healing Our Planet, then introduced local farmers Jalal Sabur and Doug DeCandia, who have worked together for five years. Judah has also been involved with WESPAC since 2006.

“There’s a sustainability model that people talk about. It’s like builders, weavers and warriors and making sure everyone has a role,” said Sabur. “There’s a group of builders I consider the farmers;  the weavers are the organizers that connect the warriors that are the families or people that don’t have access to food, the people in the front line of food or any injustice. Building with folks like Lineage Farms and other farms in the Hudson Valley help see that vision through.”

Sabur is the founder of Victory Bus Project and Freedom Food Alliance. Victory Bus is designed to provide affordable transportation for families in urban areas, such as the Hudson Valley to visit their loved ones in rural prisons and obtain fresh fruits and vegetables.

One public figure who has acted as a mentor to Sabur is political prisoner and former Black Panther, Herman Bell. Bell has been incarcerated for over 42 years. The Alliance, a project inspired by Bell, who is also co-founder of the Victory Bus Project is a group of small rural and urban farmers, activists, artists, community members and other political prisoners who address the issues of food, environmental, prisoner and economic justice.

DeCandia is the Food Growing Program Coordinator of Food Bank for Westchester and manages farms in five local areas:  Lincoln Watts School in Yonkers, School for the Deaf in White Plains, Woodfield Cottage Juvenile Correction Center, the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla and the Westchester Land Trust in Bedford Hills. He works with youth, inmates and volunteers, teaching people how to grow fresh, high quality organic produce in places that are experiencing food insecurity.  DeCandia and Sabur discussed the importance of nourishing and replenishing the soil with natural organic materials and the impact it has on our environment and personal health.

“Composting is creating earth to grow through recycling plants and other organic material,” said DeCandia. “Our self-reliance is diminished if we don’t have access to the basic needs of providing for ourselves and the community. Land is essential for that access and to our self-reliance and care of the land,” he maintained.

“Composting creates less climate issues,” added Sabur. “Our land is our liberation.”

As part of Black History Month, Sabur mentioned figures like Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer who were farmers. Similar to our current local farmers, Tubman grew food for people on the Underground Railroad. Hamer began the Pig Bank with the help of the National Council of Negro Women to improve the diets of people in her community by buying gilts and boars. Later, she founded Freedom Farm Cooperative that would provide the same food and economic independence to local people.

Sabur continues to envision possibilities of justice and sustainability with his new local farm Wild Seed, which is named after a book by Octavia Butler. This farm in Millerton, New York, is for black folk, including women, queers and those who have been impacted with mass incarceration. Currently, Sabur and his partners are making maple syrup. When asked why maple syrup, Sabur replied, “We got it from the indigenous community. The Iroquois taught us how to make it. During slavery, abolitionists used it as a way to boycott sugar plantations.” Sabur has also named the maple syrup “sweet freedom.”

In relation to this discussion, local Chef D’Amour Giovanni Green prepared a healthy dish, along with dessert.  Break Bread Not Hearts, the culinary enterprise Green owns in White Plains, prepared a basmati rice stir fry with rainbow bell peppers, purple and green cabbage, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, scallion, ginger, and garlic and an apple arugula salad. The stir fry and salad were topped with their signature Apricot Sesame Sauce. The dessert was their signature Dulce D’Armour Chocolate Dank Cookies, a secret recipe.

“The main ingredient in all our dishes is love,” said Green, whose title, Chef D’Amour he said applies to his style of cooking.  “Break Bread Not Hearts is a culinary business that is based on supporting our agriculture,” said Green. Green has done catering, birthday parties, cooking classes at New Rochelle Public Library and taught food literacy. Food literacy, Green said is “health, hope and humanity, the notion that food is medicine.” This notion also “supports the food service’s philosophy ‘Cooking Up Community.’”

Musical artists and sisters Grace Galu and Kathleen Kalambay, formerly known as Kala, performed songs for the audience.Galu and Kala performed “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. As a solo, Galu sung “Green Grass” by Tom Waits and her original song “Fire Light.”

Anthony Jones, 21, a member of WESPAC’s Food Justice Committee said, “I thought it was a great event for a great cause. What Doug and Jalal do and say is very powerful and knowledgeable in terms of growing food. I think we should have more events like this around Westchester County.”

“It was really nice. I liked the energy,” said member of WESPAC’s Food Justice Committee and Environmental Studies professor at Pace University, Tracy Basile. “I met wonderful people while munching on those delicious cookies.”

“It was one of the best events I have attended in years,” said Laurie Evans, another member of WESPAC’s Food Justice Committee. “It was helpful, educational and fun. The food was delicious and the music set the mood. When you are growing healthy food, that is creating the change that we want.”

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Environmental and Food Justice, Frontpage, Movement Building, Racial Justice