In August, Metro Justice joined the BLM protests demanding justice for Daniel Prude, had our first Virtual Annual Dinner featuring a keynote address from Steve Williams (recording included), and continued our movements for universal healthcare, energy democracy, workers' power, and elder justice to do our part in making sure it is our communities that are funded, not police. Read on to learn more about these activities and more in our August recap!
Justice for Daniel Prude
Photos by Reclaiming the Narrative
Thousands of Rochester residents -- including dozens of Metro Justice members -- have come out to the streets following the calls of Free The People Rochester (FTP) to demand justice for Daniel Prude. Daniel Prude was a Black man executed by the Rochester Police Department (RPD) on March 23, 2020. Mr. Prude was naked, unarmed, and experiencing a mental health crisis. Footage of the murder was released on Wednesday, September 2nd; however, our city's elected leadership -- including Mayor Warren and former police chief Leron Singletary -- knew about the video for months and covered it up from the public.
As a community, we have marched, shut down streets, provided medical assistance to protesters under the leadership of the Rochester Street Medic Collective, donated and handed out supplies to protesters, served as legal observers, and participated in the occupation of City Hall. We have also been routinely brutalized by RPD with pepper bullets, rubber bullets, sonic weapons, and tear gas. We will keep showing up until the People's Demands articulated by FTP are met:
- Fire and prosecute RPD officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Talladay, Francisco Santiago, Josiah Harris, Andrew Specksgoor, Paul Ricotta, and Sgt. Michael Magri.
- Free and drop all charges for all protesters arrested since May 30th.
- Demilitarize and defund RPD.
- Pass Daniel's Law that prohibits police from responding to mental health calls.
- The resignation of Mayor Lovely Warren, Chief Singletary (which we won!), and Deputy Mayor James Smith.
We will also keep organizing for the long-term systemic change that can concretely implement what it means to defund the police and fund our communities. Structurally, the police have always existed to protect the property and power of a predominately white ruling class, and that is because our world is built on capitalism and white supremacy. If we want to end racist and classist police violence, we must build a society founded on different rules. So, as we continue to be out in the streets to win immediate and meaningful victories alongside Free the People and supporting organizations, we are also building our grassroots movements for universal healthcare, energy democracy, and community solidarity with an anti-racist labor movement for workers' power.
Photos by Reclaiming the Narrative
There are several more updates on the protests for Justice for Daniel Prude that will be continued in our September recap. We will also do our best to send out updates via email and our Facebook as we have them. You can also follow FTP's Facebook page. For current, well-researched, independent, and local reporting, you can follow Reclaiming the Narrative on their Facebook page or website.
Metro Justice Virtual Annual Dinner 2020
Warm congratulations to you, our Membership & Fundraising Committee, Steve Williams, our sponsors, and our staff for making our first ever Virtual Annual Dinner such a huge success! Over 100 people joined us to celebrate our movements for racial, economic, and social justice through our campaigns for energy democracy, universal healthcare, elder justice, and community solidarity with local unions. Steve Williams delivered an inspiring and sharp analysis of how the devastating impacts of COVID-19, police brutality, and climate change simultaneously create unprecedented -- and critical -- opportunities for us to come together, fight for lasting justice, and radically transform our society. He centered his message in the practice of "transformative organizing" to guide us on how we can build from mass mobilization into mass organization that is capable of winning, and sustaining, long-term systemic transformation and the empowerment of everyday working people. We then had an audience Q&A and closing remarks from our President, Evelyn Evans, before local musician Hannah PK delivered a terrific performance to end the night. If you missed our event, you can watch the recording by clicking here!
BLM to Labor Rally with Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Metro Justice came out in solidarity with the Coalition for Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) for their second "Black Lives Matter to Labor" rally! This time, our elected treasurer, Marcus Dunn, spoke on his experience growing up in a Black union family, and the links between Metro Justice's mission for racial, social, and economic justice and participating in the labor movement. You can watch the full video of Marcus speaking by clicking here!
Rochester for Energy Democracy (R.E.D.)
R.E.D. is a campaign started by Metro Justice to halt the pending climate catastrophe and ensure environmental justice in the long-term. We are striving to build an energy system in which communities -- not corporate investors -- decide what energy we use, where we get it, what we pay, and how that money can be used to benefit our community. The first steps towards this vision is organizing our neighborhoods for community-owned solar and replacing RG&E with a public, not-for-profit, cooperatively owned utility with an elected board, a green energy mandate, and concrete commitments to a just transition for energy workers.
After reaching our one year anniversary for the R.E.D. campaign this past July, August closed a period of reflection that drafted new goals for the upcoming year. We confirmed a long-term goal of finishing the process to replace RG&E with a not-for-profit, locally and cooperatively owned utility according to our principles of energy democracy. Our mid-term goals are to win the referendum necessary to establish our public utility and to finish the feasibility study that will inform how the public utility could operate to make our vision a reality. Our final short term goals will include how to educate, recruit, and build community with various bases of people in Rochester towards true public power. Our member-volunteers have roots in so many diverse communities in our city, including Black & Brown communities in the Upper Falls and Joseph Avenue neighborhoods, food insecure people, the homeless population, and immigrant refugees. We will also strengthen our alliance with existing organizations, including the Rochester Citywide Tenants Union, Rochester Mutual Aid Network, and local unions through joint actions and events. Securing funding and an institutional partner for our feasibility study is also a critical short-term goal. Moving forward in September, we will also finalize goals for our community-owned solar farm project in the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood.
Do you want to join us in halting the climate crisis and making energy a human right? Sign our petition here and then let's get to work, together!
Rochester Public Power Hour
Episode 5 of the Rochester Public Power Hour is on its way! If you missed our last episode which included a discussion of the connections between Black Lives Matter and public power, you can tune-in by clicking either of the buttons below!
Campaign for NY Health
Metro Justice houses the Rochester Chapter of the Campaign for NY Health (CNYH): a statewide movement for universal healthcare in NYS! Every New Yorker deserves comprehensive health care without expensive premiums, deductibles, and copays. Click here to learn more about the New York Health Act (NYHA).
Our local BLM Uprising is a powerful example of how much we can win if we fight together. We have the power to win healthcare for all, and we call on you to join us. To kickstart building more people power for universal healthcare, we invite to you to our "Fund Healthcare Not Police" workshop & call to action on Saturday, October 10th at 2 PM at the Canalside Shelter in Genesee Valley Park. We will hear from current volunteer leaders on what the New York Health Act is, get to know each other better and share our healthcare stories, hear from leaders of color in community organizations and unions on the racial disparities of the impacts of COVID and access to health care, and end with a plan to win plus an immediate first call to action. Please RSVP by clicking the button below!
Lastly, please follow our Facebook page! We also have monthly organizing meetings, now held over zoom. Message us on Facebook for the Zoom link or RSVP here on our website for the next meeting, which will be held at 6 PM on Wednesday, September 30th!
Popular Education & White Supremacy
The Popular Education Committee has undergone some restructuring and is finalizing facilitation plans and details for the pilot of the "Dismantling White Supremacy" workshop series. The group will also attend training in preparation for the series, in order to provide the best possible experience for workshop attendees. The pilot will launch tentatively early 2021, pending COVID-19. We will need volunteers to help facilitate the workshop pilot. If you are interested in being part of this initiative, please reach out to Nicole White at [email protected]
Elder Justice Committee (EJC) is one of our longest existing committees with some of our most dedicated members. Over the years, Elder Justice has gained statewide recognition for their work to ensure that elders live purposeful, self-directed, meaningful, and dignified lives in their homes and communities. A critical focus of this work has been transforming our nursing homes from hospital-like holding institutions into meaningful and nurturing homes where elders can continue to live truly fulfilling lives. A linchpin of this effort is winning the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.
August has been a very busy month for Elder Justice Committee. We continued to respond to the more than 6600 nursing home COVID-19 fatalities and to those suffering of loneliness, isolation, neglect and failure to thrive. We have been working with other advocates from around the state on issues such as safe staffing, oversight of nursing homes, as well as resident and family rights and visitation.
We participated in the Joint Senate and Assembly Public Hearing on Residential Healthcare Facilities and COVID-19. We gave a five minute virtual summary of our written testimony, titled " The 'Dry Grass' is Actually the Systemic Long-Time Neglect and Inaction of New York State to Problems of Nursing Homes." These problems include inadequate direct care staffing levels and lax NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) enforcement of nursing home regulations. We asked that action be taken NOW.
Albeit 8 months late, the NYSDOH finally came out with the results of its study on safe staffing, Nurse Caregiver Minimum Staffing Levels – August, 2020, which did not recommend minimum staffing levels. Elder Justice Committee then wrote a press release that disputed the findings. Reasons for rejecting the findings included that the focus of the study was primarily on hospitals and included little of the benefits of regulation of staffing levels for nursing home residents and direct care staff. Furthermore, two days of testimony and over 20 years of research on the positive association between staffing levels and the health, safety and wellbeing of nursing home residents was largely dismissed by the study.
Co-chair, MaryDel Wypych, was interviewed by WHEC TV 10 about our position and included an excerpt from the state hearings. WHAM TV 13 asked our opinion on the DOJ investigation of NYS transferring people suffering from COVID from hospitals to Nursing Homes. We used that opportunity to again communicate our position on the systemic problems with nursing homes which need to be addressed.
Elder Justice Committee is very concerned that less than half of the state’s nursing homes are able to allow in person visitation, keeping people isolated. We wrote to the Monroe County Health Commissioner, Michael Mendoza; County Executive, Adam Bello; and to all the Monroe County Legislators asking them to communicate to nursing home staffs and the whole community to MASK UP and socially distance to prevent the spread of COVID, otherwise more and more residents of facilities will never be able to see and touch their loved ones again. By state guidelines, one case of COVID will lock out visitors for 28 days. ENOUGH is ENOUGH!!!
Elder Justice Committee wants to thank the TV and print media for keeping problems affecting nursing home residents in the public’s eye. We ask everyone to please write to your elected officials to put their words into actions to improve the conditions in nursing homes and prevent more senseless deaths.
Rochester Mutual Aid Network (RMAN)
Metro Justice is honored to be the 501 c(3) sponsor of the grassroots Rochester Mutual Aid Network. RMAN is a partnership between the Rochester Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and a number of local charity and social justice organizations. RMAN is a cooperative network that was started to help our community sustain itself.
As of this past August, RMAN has officially fulfilled more than 700 requests for aid! You can request aid, donate, or sign up to volunteer at their website www.rocmutualaid.com. RMAN has regular orientations and training for new volunteers; to receive updates, you can sign up on their website or follow them on their Facebook page. In these times of crisis, people shouldn't have to worry about where help is going to come from. It's going to come from our community, so let's get to work!
Rochester Rapid Response Network (RRRN)
Metro Justice remains a dedicated ally and fiscal sponsor of the Rochester Rapid Response Network. RRRN is an ally group formed to support immigrants facing detention or deportation by engaging in community-based strategic actions and public education guided by their directly-affected immigrant families.
This past month, Rochester Rapid Response Network hosted a virtual Emergency Response Training, in which 11 individuals were trained and joined our network. We also received a $5,000 anonymous donation from a Meryl Lunch client that will greatly help our ability to support the immigrant families we work with. Lastly, we responded to an emergency call from two individuals being held at a police station in Warsaw, NY, who were going to be turned over to Border Patrol.
RRRN has several working groups that meet between general meetings; these working groups anchor critical work including immigrant family court support, communications & media, campaign planning & strategy, and membership recruitment & development. RRRN is in particular need of someone to fill the role of Treasurer on their Steering Committee. To learn more or join a working group, email RRRN at [email protected]!
Hello! I am Evelyn Evans, the elected President of Metro Justice.
Our nation has been in turmoil since its inception; due the disease of the "ism", race and class being two. Race is a construct, it was constructed to divide and separate individuals from one another, and to make it difficult for Black and Brown citizens of our community to have fair and equal access to resources.
There have been many grassroots organizations and agencies created to fight these diseases; yet, even with our best efforts, it can feel like little to no progress has been made around the value of the lives of Black and Brown citizens.
I challenge each of us to choose a path in which we can continue to make our community the best that it's ever been for the most oppressed among us. The actions we take to make our community the best it's ever been will look different every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month and every year.
I challenge each of us to construct opportunities to engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations around all "isms."
I challenge each of us to get involved in community change by using your talents to inspire, educate, and support a movement for change.
I challenge each of us to practice the words of a lifelong fighter for justice, Senator John Lewis: "Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."
Metro Justice has been a gateway for positive change, difficult conversations and bringing the fight directly to large corporations in this community since 1965. Now is our time to lend our skills and talents to support those who are leading the the current battles. To continue to make good and necessary trouble.
Build With Us!
Metro Justice is a grassroots community organization, driven by our members. Much of this work would not be possible without the contributions of both time and money by the hundreds of members who work hard everyday fighting for racial, social, and economic justice. The contributions of our members are what allow us to forgo big grant funding so that we can be solely accountable to our community instead of large foundations.
Not a member yet? Make it official!
Are you already a member, but want to make an additional donation to support our work?
Wishing you, your friends, and loved ones health, safety, and support.
Yours in Solidarity,