Economic and Human Rights :

Water

WESPAC promotes Economic Justice through promoting fair trade year round and helping to organize the annual Margaret Eberle Fair Trade Festival in White Plains. We also partner with the Wassaic Community Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) http://wassaiccommunityfarm.com. WESPAC is an active member of the Hudson Valley Fair Economy Coalition that meets monthly at the Union Hall in Port Chester, and we have taken a lead role in promoting a public bank for the State of New York. To get involved, please contact the office at 914.449.6514 or by email at [email protected]

Open Letter to NYS Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins

[email protected]

Dear Senator Stewart-Cousins,

As a constituent I would like to communicate my strongest possible objection to your recent vote in favor of S2492, S2493, and S4837, all springing from a misguided and repressive effort to outlaw Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions – frequently through the camouflage of general penalizing of boycotts – largely on the grounds that BDS is anti-Semitic.

In the first place, as a daughter of the American Civil Rights Movement, how can you forget the role that boycotts – as in the Montgomery Bus Boycott – played in overturning Jim Crow in this country?  Do you recall how international  boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against South Africa helped to overthrow apartheid in that country?  Do you remember that very recently Governor Cuomo backed a boycott against North Carolina because of legislation in that state that discriminated against the LGBT community? 

Boycotts are conscientious, nonviolent approaches to promoting political, economic, and social change against perceived injustices. They are Constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. New York State is opening itself to a barrage of lawsuits that will be costly and time-consuming if it persists in this campaign to demonize and penalize BDS and its supporters because of their opinions.  BDS calls for the protection of fundamental human rights that are civil rights in this country.

Even when such bills speak more generally about boycotts against American allies, they are aimed at BDS and assert, explicitly or implicitly, that BDS is anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism involves the promotion of hatred and discrimination against Jews as a people. BDS seeks to change Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. The former victimizes a people; the latter criticizes a state. BDS is not anti-Semitic. To assert that it is is dangerously to misuse the term “anti-Semitism” and to engage in specious unreason.

Under international law recognized by the vast majority of nations of the globe, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands is illegal, and Israeli treatment of Palestinians is an abuse of human rights. Therefore, supporters of BDS act out of respect for international norms. Why would you assist in enacting NY State laws that contradict international law and moral standards?

BDS attempts to pressure Israel to act in accordance with international law. I have been to the West Bank and E. Jerusalem and observed at close hand in November 2012 what the occupation looks like. It is physically brutal and psychologically Kafka-esque  – an arbitrary and cruel imposition of shifting, unpredictable rules and regulations enforced through overwhelming force against a subject people that make their daily life an unrelenting grind. It is a policy of ethnic-cleansing: make life so intolerable that people who can leave do so, and the others drift into hopelessness and despair. That the vast majority of Palestinians resist this abusive regime nonviolently day in and day out  is a testimony to their steadfastness in the face of injustice. I was deeply shamed to see the Israeli policies abetted by U.S. connivance. Much of the equipment and weaponry  used to enforce the occupation is stamped “Made in America.”  This ugly fact does not escape the notice of the peoples of surrounding lands for whom American policy is synonymous with repression and violence.

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester would be only too happy to talk with you about Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and why BDS is probably the best way to bring the change that must come soon, or Israel’s claims to be both Jewish and democratic will be impossible to sustain before the world.

Your record of accomplishments in defending the interests of your constituents is widely recognized.I am deeply disappointed by your votes on S2492, S2493, and S4837 and can only assume that if you had had better information at your disposal, you would have voted against them. I hope that JVP-Westchester can help provide that information and will call your office soon to see about making an appointment for members to meet with you.

 Yours sincerely,

Priscilla Read

Tarrytown, NY

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Militarism and Foreign Policy, Movement Building

We want an accountable Westchester Human Rights Commission

https://www.change.org/p/westchester-county-board-of-legislators-we-want-an-accountable-westchester-human-rights-commission

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

Rally in support of Immigrant Rights – Monday, February 20th

Rally In in support of Immigrant Rights – Monday, February 20th

Rally at the fountain in downtown White Plains (intersection of Main Street and Mamamaroneck Ave) from 12 noon to 1pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1345733042131900/

List of Participating Organizations in the Westchester Social Justice Community:

Community Voices Heard: http://www.cvhaction.org

Concerned Families of Westchester: https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedFamiliesofWestchester/

Food & Water Watch: https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/state/new-york

Hudson Valley Community Coalition: http://hvccoalition.org

Knowdrones.com: https://www.knowdrones.com

Lower Hudson Valley Progressive Action Network: https://www.facebook.com/LHVPAN/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE

Mount Vernon United Tenants: http://mvut.org

Indivisible Westchester: https://www.facebook.com/groups/228920050895653/

Prevent Gun Violence—Westchester: http://www.preventgunviolence.org

Up and Up Action Initiative: https://www.facebook.com/UUAction/?fref=ts

WESPAC Foundation: https://wespac.org

Westchester for Change: https://www.facebook.com/groups/westchester4change/

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

Make Westchester a Sanctuary!

Satellite map of Westchester County, desaturated.

Satellite map of Westchester County, desaturated.

Make Westchester a Sanctuary! Convertir Westchester en un Santuario!

March and Rally in downtown White Plains on Black Friday, November 25th

Assemble at 12 noon at the Fountain (intersection of Main Street and Mamaroneck Avenue in downtown White Plains)
12:30pm march to the Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd statue located at 111 Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd. in White Plains

This march and rally has a permit with the City of White Plains and is organized by WESPAC Foundation, Inc. and supported by the Lower Hudson Valley Chapter of the NYCLU, the White Plains Greenburgh Chapter of the NAACP, the White Plains Religious Leaders, Westchester for Change (list in formation)

For more information contact [email protected] or call 914.449.6514.  Signs will be provided:

Make Westchester a Sanctuary       Convertir Westchester en un Santuario 

Keep Families Together                  Mantener unidas a las Familias

Path to Citizenship for All               Proceso de naturalización para todos

Drivers Licenses for the Undocumented      

Licencias de conducir para los indocumentados

Climate Change Action Now

Respect Indigenous Sovereignty 

Protect our Constitution

Protect our Bill of Rights

Support our Veterans

Black Lives Matter: support racial justice

Muslims are part of our Family

People with Disabilities are part of our Family

Respect and Support Women’s Rights

Respect and Support LGBTQ Rights

Support a Living Wage: we need economic democracy

Support our Workers and Unions

Westchester Welcomes Refugees

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

Saudis must face consequences for promoting extremism

Last December, Farah Pandith of the Council on Foreign Relations, who was the first State Department special representative to Muslim communities, called for Saudi Arabia to face consequences if it did not stop promoting extremism. She wrote in the New York Times

“I traveled to 80 countries between 2009 and 2014 as the first ever U.S. special representative to Muslim communities. In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence, changing the local sense of identity; displacing historic, culturally vibrant forms of Islamic practice; and pulling along individuals who were either paid to follow their rules or who became on their own custodians of the Wahhabi world view. Funding all this was Saudi money, which paid for things like the textbooks, mosques, TV stations and the training of Imams…We should expose the Saudi financing of extremist groups masquerading as cultural exchanges and ‘charity’ organizations and prevent the Saudis from demolishing local Muslim religious and cultural sites that are evidence of the diversity of Islam. If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing, there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.” [1]

Eight months later, the New York Times reported:

“Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don’t agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for ‘radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.’ He has called the Saudis ‘the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.'” [2]  

But neither Clinton nor Trump has yet addressed the conclusion of what Farah Pandith wrote eight months ago: there must be consequences for the Saudis if they do not cease what they are doing.

Instead of sanctioning the Saudis, the U.S. government now plans to reward them. On August 8, the administration notified Congress of intent to sell $1.15 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia. But Senator Murphy and Senator Paul are expected to introduce a bipartisan resolution to disapprove the administration’s Saudi arms deal. [3]

Urge Congress to support the Paul-Murphy resolution to disapprove the Saudi arms deal by signing our petition at change.org.

Thanks for all you do to help make America more just,

Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy

Posted in Blogs, Communities & Focus Areas, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Militarism and Foreign Policy, 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

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

Losing Liberty through the Backdoor

Losing Liberty Through the Backdoor

Letting the government bypass iPhone security measures won’t stop terrorists—or make you safer.

The question of how to balance government surveillance with individual privacy is really quite simple. On one side the government believes that the investigation of someone who is either planning or has actually carried out a crime should be without any conditions, that all evidence potentially relating to the event should be accessible to law enforcement. On the other side, citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their day to day activities, meaning that the government should have to demonstrate indisputable “probable cause” to a judge before undertaking any intrusion into an individual’s private space. And even then, the intrusion should be narrowly defined to include only the actual criminal activity under investigation. (more…)

Posted in Blogs, Director's Blog, Economic and Human Rights, Uncategorized

WESPAC Intern Attends Local Conference

Imani McCalla is a Journalism Major at SUNY Purchase and has been interning this semester at WESPAC.  She recently attended the Westchester MLK Institute’s annual conference on Ending Violence, Building Hope and took the time to write an article about her experience.

“Rebuilding A Community And Reliving A Dream”
By Imani McCalla

Following years of civil unrest within black communities, Manhattanville College and staff joined Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence in their 17th annual Ending Violence, Building Hope community gathering this month to discuss tools for positive change.

Inspired by Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, the organization, since 1987, facilitates nonviolent action for social justice and promotes nonviolence as a way of life. (more…)

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

Celebrating Our Community Self-Reliance

Community self-reliance Feb.25-page-001

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