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WESPAC 2021 Dinner Journal_SPREAD (2)

Invitation to Rally for the New York Public Banking Act (S.1762-A/A.5782) 

RALLY! Fight Back Against Wall Street, Fight Forward for a Just Recovery!

Dear friends and supporters of WESPAC, 

Across New York, communities are calling for local public banks to help lead a just recovery. 

Join us on Tuesday, April 13th, 2021 at 1 p.m on Facebook live to rally in support of the New York Public Banking Act (S.1762-A (Sanders) / A.5782 (Pichardo)), a transformative bill that would create a framework for the creation of local public banks dedicated to advancing racial and economic justice. 

Through public banking, communities can divest public money from predatory Wall Street banks that harm New Yorkers and New York communities, and invest in cooperative and community-led economic development, including permanently affordable housing, small and worker-owned businesses, community-controlled renewable energy, and more. 

When: Tuesday, April 13th 2021 at 1 p.m.

Where: Facebook livestream

Who: Co-sponsored by the NYS Community Equity Agenda, Public Bank NYC, and the Rochester Public Banking Coalition

Speakers: NYS Senator James Sanders, Jr.; NYS Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo; Hae-Lin Choi, Communications Workers of America; Stanley Fritz, Citizen Action of New York; Sarah Ludwig, New Economy Project; Melissa Marquez, Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union; Brendan Martin, The Working World; and others.

In Solidarity, 


Nada for WESPAC


Skills to keep in mind for navigating controversial conversations

We can all become better listeners

  • Our educational system is derived from a Eurocentric system which values, the thoughts and opinions and life experiences of those who are in dominant positions in society. We have learned that some people’s stories and life experiences matter and some don’t.
  • Examine your position and whether you always assume people will be interested in what you have to say (based on your racialized background, gender, class background, age, sexual orientation, nationality, language) or you never have that expectation.
  • Notice how often you insert yourself into a conversation, interrupt or speak first in your interactions.

Listening is to gain understanding.

Listening does not equal condoning

Listening does not equal agreeing.

Listening does not equal compromising your beliefs.

Listening = valuing and understanding.

“One of the sincerest forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.” Steven Covey

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Steven Covey

When we are engaged in conversation, we have been trained to think about opposing arguments.  Someone gives their opinion and while they are talking, we are planning our response.

  • Listen to position of person.
  • Listen beyond what feels bearable.
  • Ask a question that will try to reach for understanding why this is so important to them. (Is there a personal story that led you to hold this position?)

A mistake we often make is we feel so urgent that our position be understood that we assume everything has to be solved and shifted in one conversation. 

Our goal is to reach for the person behind the position. 

Find an entry point to engage that is based on curiosity and real interest without the agenda of changing the person.

We are training for the long haul, especially with colleagues, family and community members.  This is about building something authentic where we can find common ground so we can work toward moving issues and policies forward as well as building and strengthening relationships.

Culture of shaming – the only thing that shaming accomplishes is we either we get the person to shut up in the moment, and they look for somewhere else to spew their offensive remarks or they become combative, and the conflict escalates.

When do we use these skills? 

When we have a long-lasting relationship and want to maintain and build bridges to greater understanding,

When we a share common goal and want to have civil conversations to create path forward even when there are points of disagreement.

We may NOT be able to reach everyone. 

There may be people or groups that you don’t have the attention to listen to – YET.

Start small and recognize and celebrate every time you can shift the interaction forward.  (This is part of the muscle building process. We are more likely to keep trying when we experience success.)

Stephanie Low

The National Coalition Building Institute (

Evolution, LLC, consultant

[email protected]

Dear Social Justice Forum Participant,

We were so pleased to have you join our Racism Workshop last Wednesday, March 24th led by the Westchester Youth Alliance and Peekskill Youth NAACP. It was a completely youth-planned, led, and hosted event and we are so proud of all the hard work they put into it. Your input, thoughtful comments and insights as participants were also what made the night so special! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, and welcome any and all feedback.
This workshop was quite indicative of some of the work we do here at Westchester Youth Alliance. Our mission is to build bridges across our diverse communities of faith, race and identity through dialogue and service to strive for justice and understanding. We welcome all youth from any and all backgrounds, and are always looking to expand our reach in the community. If you are a youth living in Westchester we would love to have you join! Alternatively, if your child/grandchild/youths you know in the community might be interested in joining, please have them contact us! 
We also have room for not just young people, but adults as well. We have an amazing board that we are always looking to add to, in addition to many mentorship and volunteer opportunities available. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to get involved.
You can follow our work at Westchester Youth Alliance, via our instagram @wya_ny, and on our facebook page Westchester Youth Alliance! If you so feel inclined to donate to our cause, you can support us at this link: Support Us — Westchester Youth Alliance. Any and all donations are incredibly appreciated.
We were also so lucky to partner with Peekskill Youth NAACP for this workshop. We hope to continue working with them in the future in growing and building our relationship. If you would like to contact them, you can email [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also follow them on their website Peekskill NAACP and on their instagram @peekskillyouthnaacp. You can also donate here: Donate Peekskill NAACP. Any support is very much appreciated.
Thank you for being a supportive, active member of the Westchester community. We hope that you decide to become involved in WYA. We really would LOVE to have you! Please tell your friends and family about our work as well as Peekskill Youth NAACP. The more people we reach, the more community building, justice-related work we can do to make this world better; but only with your help! 
We look forward to staying in touch and hearing from you.
The Westchester Youth Alliance Leadership Team

Dear Nada,

I am one of the organizers of a three-part webinar series on affordable housing in Westchester. Attached is a flyer for the series, below is the line up for each panel, as well as a link to the registration page. The first panel is this coming Wednesday, April 7. Please consider joining us. If so moved, please share to your networks. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Forward we go ….
Here is the link to the registration page:
Here are the panel participants and moderators:
The first session on April 7th, will focus on the history of our housing crisis and what has inhibited fair and affordable housing from being built and fully integrated into the county.  

It will be hosted by Juanita Lewis, Hudson Valley Organizing Director, Community Voices Heard and panlists will include:
  • David Schwartz –  Vice-Chair, Westchester-Putnam Working Families Party
  • Norma Drummond – Commissioner, Westchester County Department of Planning
  • Joe Czajka – Senior Vice-President – Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress

The second session on April 21st, will focus on solutions to the housing crisis. It will be hosted by Joan Grangenois-Thomas, Trustee, Village of Port Chester and panelists will include:
  • Cea Weaver – Campaign Coordinator, Housing Justice for All

  • Rich Nightingale, CEO Westhab

  • William G. Balter – Principal, Wilder Balter Partners Inc.

  • James Rausse, AICP, WEDG – Director, Planning & Development Office of the Bronx Borough President

The third session on May 5th, will focus on the steps that government and activists need to take to address the housing crisis. It will be hosted by Abe Baker-Butler and panelists will include:

  • Vanessa Agudelo – Councilmember – City of Peekskill

  • Rebecca Garrard – Campaign Manager for Housing Justice, Citizen Action of NY

  • Lisa Burton – Office of County Legislator Damon Maher 

  • Thehbia Hiwot – President of the Office of Finance and Development, NYS HOUSING TRUST FUND CORPORATION

Important message from Veterans for Peace, NYC:

Veterans For Peace NYC Chapter 34 is initiating a project to inform veterans,the public and especially elected officials about specific threats to veterans healthcare and what concrete actions can be taken now to address them.Veterans from other organizations are working with us. We would appreciate your sharing this request with your contacts. The project is entirely virtual and will require participants to devote no more than 5 hours per month working entirely from home if they decide to participate. Contact: Pete Bronson Text/phone 917-453-3666 or email:[email protected]



 Name an issue and there are multiple opinions and strong emotions – immigration, facing and moving forward to correct the impact of 400+ years of systemic racism on our country, the climate emergency, healthcare, housing, criminal justice, the economy, abortion, and the Middle East are some examples. 

This interactive workshop will engage participants to practice listening and coalition building skills with people who have diverse points of view.  Come prepared to connect and practice using issues that are close to your heart.

(Be prepared to practice skills that can be applied to activism and conversations with family members, neighbors and friends.)  

Offered by Stephanie Low, the National Coalition Building Institute

Registration required here if you have not previously registered.

Why I support a treaty to ban weaponized and surveillance drones


Predator drone RESIZE.jpg

An MQ-1 Predator drone prepares to launch for a night flight mission over southeastern Iraq in July 2009. (Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Tony Ritter)
An MQ-1 Predator drone prepares to launch for a night flight mission over southeastern Iraq in July 2009. (Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Tony Ritter)

I remember well where I was on Oct. 1, 2014. I was handcuffed tighter than I had ever been, wiggling my fingers to keep my hands from going numb. I had been stuffed prostrate between the front and rear seat of an Onondaga Sheriff’s Department car in Syracuse, New York.

DeWitt Town Court Judge Robert Jokl had just sent me on my way to the nearby Jamesville Correctional Facility to begin a three-month sentence for my participation in a die-in at the main gate of the New York Air National Guard 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field killer drone base.

Lying on the floor, squeezed between the seats, I asked the two deputies to give me room to sit. The deputy in the passenger seat called out: “You’ll be at the jail in just 15 minutes or so, live with it.”

I lived with it, serving 60 days of my 90-day sentence, with time reduced for “good behavior.”

But I’m still mad as hell that my U.S. government continues to assassinate “suspected terrorists,” expand its drone war and encourage other countries to do the same.

It’s time to promote a treaty to ban weaponized and surveillance drones worldwide.

The Predator

When I became aware of the drone protests at Hancock Field, I had written coming-of-age novels about conscientious objectors from World War II and the Vietnam War, but now war was being waged in my own backyard and few seemed to know about it.

The resisters at Hancock were, of course, trying to educate the public. Sadly, even when some Americans did learn of assassinations operating out of United States drone bases, the acts of drone terror seemed of little importance to them. After all, the terrorists were in foreign lands and we needed to “take them out” and not to worry about Hellfire missiles and bombs since they were in the Middle East, not in Syracuse. Hancock’s 174th Attack Wing just did the electronic firing of weapons hovering over suspects thousands of miles away, seen of course by Attack Wing pilots with high-tech drone cameras via satellite.

I researched Predator and Reaper drones, spoke to folks who had been arrested for trespass at Hancock (and was arrested a couple of times myself).

Persistence paid off. The bishop agreed to meet with our team of six resisters.

I asked Cunningham what he thought of the morality of the Hancock weaponized drone base. Cunningham said: “It’s one way to keep our boys’ boots off foreign soil. We don’t need to be sending our young men off to war.”

Then, a bit later, he noted: “You do know that a lot of Catholics work at Hancock, don’t you?”

We had assumed that to be so since we knew Cunningham had assigned one of his priests to minister to Hancock drone pilots.

Realizing that the bishop’s office was a dead end, I began to form a play in my mind of a young woman whose mother was a drone pilot at Creech. I decided to go with the title “The Predator,” for obvious reasons.

In November 2013, the first staging of “The Predator” was done at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with students from Syracuse University and the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, as actors. The event was the annual Ignatian Family Teach-In. Thankfully, I had a professional to assist, Aetna Thompson, a former member and singer with the satirical group in Washington called “The Capitol Steps.”

An eye-catching prop was set up on campus, a facsimile of a Reaper drone designed and made by Nick Mottern, of Hastings on the Hudson, New York, and coordinator of KnowDrones. Nick drove the disassembled mock drone from his home to Route 81 in Scranton, where he showed me how to assemble it and then covered the mock Hellfire missiles with blankets — “just in case a state trooper wonders about these rockets,” he said.

The play “The Predator” is still available to download (and tweak to bring it up to date) for any group to use. Click here to download the script.

The Reaper was my traveling mate in my old Volvo, the fuselage resting on my dashboard and the tail bumping my rear window.

I drove south for our first gig at Georgetown University and then on to Fort Benning, Georgia, where I stationed the Reaper mockup at the entranceway to the Columbus convention center with a large sign tacked onto it, announcing “THE PREDATOR.”

“The Predator” had legs, playing in many college campuses and church halls around the nation from around 2013 to 2017.

Did the reflection, the thinking of the outlandish immorality and cowardly killing of people with high-tech American terrorism lead me to write the play? Quite likely, it was a factor. But I felt that what I had done with the play was not enough, hence my arrest and jailing, noted above. 

Going international

Weaponized drones have nothing that is praiseworthy. Weaponized drones are unmanned weapons carriers used to assassinate people in foreign (for now) lands. The use of weaponized drones is immoral, illegal, racist (used mainly to kill people of color) and pragmatically stupid. No other nation does what the United States does frequently — assassinate with weaponized drones in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Libya.

The United States is still the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and killer drones have become our deadly calling card.

Bill Quigley, a professor of constitutional law at Loyola University New Orleans, has defended protesters arrested for nonviolent actions. At the same time, he is raising awareness of our immoral and illegal acts of killing suspected “terrorists” by weaponized drones — the dead and wounded almost always including innocent civilians.

A 2020 update by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that it has tracked more than 14,000 drone strikes and up to 16,000 people killed by U.S. drones. Most drone victims remain nameless even to congressional oversight committees studying weaponized drones. Armed drones make bitter enemies around the world and create insecurity as they sow hate and vengeance.

It’s important to note that President Joe Biden ended his Inauguration speech with “May God bless America and God protect our troops.” That is where we are at: praising America and beseeching God to protect our troops. The arms industry and the religious arm of the military-industrial complex must be smiling.

We should encourage the new president of the United States to end weaponized drones and surveillance drones. We must also reach outside our borders and build an international consensus to drone killing and drone surveillance. 

I encourage my readers to join the movement to establish an international ban on weaponized and surveillance drones at

Jack Gilroy

Jack Gilroy’s plays and novels focus on young men and women who resist war. You can read more at