With the Metro Justice Alternative Fair less than two weeks away, we're running a Vendor Spotlight. This will be a mini-series featuring some of the vendors who will be appearing at our Alternative Fair this year! First up is Ann's Cool Wood Jewelry, run by Ann Tippett and Mike Doolin.
Ann's Cool Wood Jewelry specializes in a variety of jewelry including necklaces, earrings, money clips, and even themed jewelry! Ann designs the jewelry, while Mike does the crafting. After the initial design is created, a prototype is made in the wood shop. That prototype is then evaluated for functionality, aesthetic, and durability. Once evaluation is complete the final product is made.
I had the opportunity to ask a few questions related to the creative process, and the relationship Ann's Cool Wood Jewelry has with the Alternative Fair. Read below!
By Jack Bradigan Spula
Rochester keeps on garnering high ratings. In 2007, one unscientific survey determined we were the nation’s “most livable city; another put us at the top for “overall quality of life.” Business and lifestyle mags love our region’s low home prices, cultural attractions, recreational opportunities and more. But as the MJ newsletter points out, the “Other Rochester” is hidden in plain sight. And this “other side of the tracks,” with national-class poverty indicators, has also been an award winner.
The think-tank and foundation reports on poverty in Rochester perform a valuable service. But they also can lead us to nothing more than hand-wringing. All too often they push us up against an ideological wall emblazoned with the mottoes, “Talk is cheap” and “You’re on your own, sucker.”
This syndrome can produce a kind of tunnel vision that squeezes budgets and narrows our mindsets. As the microcosm is illuminated, the macro is obscured. Think about it: when was the last time you heard about a truly regional – I’m talking “Great Lakes/Rust Belt” – urban initiative to eradicate poverty, fund our schools adequately, directly create jobs à la New Deal, clean up and repurpose our brownfields, etc.? When, for that matter, was the first time you heard about something like that?
I’m going to share a little of my own unscientific surveys in this regard. Over the last 20 years, I’ve taken a fair number of trips by bicycle through most of the Great Lakes shoreline cities (Milwaukee, Waukegan, Chicago, Gary, Toledo, Detroit, Muskegon, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo), and I can faithfully report that they’re all in the same boat. The arbitrariness of municipal boundaries generally disguises the reality. Take Chicago, where a New Gilded Age in some neighborhoods ratchets the averages and medians upward (particularly in regard to housing values) and statistically hides the economic and physical devastation of much of the remainder of the city.Read more
Women’s Equality Agenda report
By Shaina Capellupo
The 2014 legislative session came to a close with the Assembly and Senate in a deadlock over the Women's Equality Act for the second year in a row. Although the WEA did not pass, Metro Justice has been on the frontlines working with the Statewide and Finger Lakes Coalition ready to make equality for NY women a reality for the future.
In May, Metro Justice focused much of our efforts on speaking with and targeting NY State Senator Joe Robach. We held a rally outside his office on May 9th and lobbied on May 15th. In the beginning of June, the Metro Justice campaign committee coordinated efforts asking our members in Sen. Robach’s district to call him and demand a vote on WEA.
On June 16th, Metro Justice, along with Alternatives for Battered Women, Genesee Valley Chapter of the NYCLU , Greater Rochester Area Branch of the American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters of Rochester Metropolitan Area, National Organization for Women - Greater Rochester Chapter, National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Rochester Section, Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, SEIU 1199, and YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County helped coordinate a visibility event at the American Association of University Women on East Avenue in an effort to continue to show the public and our senators that we support all ten components of the Women’s Equality Act. We had nearly 100 attendees, plus press coverage of the event. We showed our true power and what we are willing to do to win.
The hard work of all our MJ members, Finger Lakes Coalition Partners, and by our legislators to push the WEA has made a big difference. Anyone who advocates for social justice knows we have to be in this for the long haul to ensure Women’s Equality! I’m so proud of the work that we’ve done this year, and I know that with your continued support and enthusiasm for justice we will get the Women’s Equality Act passed in 2015.
Dignified Retirement Committee report
By John Keevert
The 2013 Social Security Trustees report shows a large and growing surplus. While conservatives still push austerity and benefit cuts to prove that government can’t do anything right, with your efforts we convinced President Obama that the benefit-cutting “chained CPI” should not be included in his 2015 budget proposal.
Even more hopeful, there are actually seven bills that have been introduced to raise Social Security benefits, which have slipped in buying power since introduction. Having enough for retirement is a serious concern for Americans, shown in a 2013 Gallup poll which found that 61 percent of Americans were very or moderately worried about “not having enough money for retirement.” Americans expect the government to do something about it, with 89% agreeing in 2013 that “the retirement system in this country is under stress and needs to be reformed.”
Currently, we support the bill introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Strengthening Social Security Act, S. 567 (with H.R. 3118 companion bill) which would increase benefits across the board by asking millionaires to pay the same rate that average Americans pay into the program. This bill also includes the adoption of the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), a formula that reflects the higher inflation experienced by seniors.
We have visited staff of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and while both say they oppose cuts to Social Security, neither has come forward to sign on to the Harkin bill. Please consider writing or emailing them to say it is time to get onboard and support expanded Social Security benefits, which would help reduce the staggering income inequality in the US.
If you would like to become more involved in the Metro Justice Dignified Retirement Campaign Committee, please email Colin@Metrojustice.org for more information.
Health Care Is a Human Right report
By Tim Munier
The Everybody Institute, which Metro Justice hosted this past May, was a great success and an important step forward in our movement for a universal health-care plan. Over 30 activists came from all corners of the state: NYC, Ithaca, Albany, Olean, Buffalo, and of course Rochester. Benjamin Day, Organizing Director of Healthcare-Now!, and Katie Robbins, organizing director of PNHP’s NYC Metro Chapter, led workshops on topics ranging from the fallout of the Affordable Care Act, legislative strategy, targeting the insurance industry and mobilizing labor. Deb Richter, a leader of Vermont’s campaign for a universal health-care plan, gave an update on the exciting progress they are making as they get closer to 2017 when Green Mountain Care can be fully implemented.
At the end of the day we came together and discussed how we can turn our energy and ideas into concrete action. There was a lot of enthusiasm about holding community “town-hall” style forums where people could discuss their concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act. Moderators from Metro Justice and our allies around the state will lead the discussion and provide info about the alternative, New York Health (A.5389A/S.2078A), a bill that would establish a universal health-care plan here in New York. Through these forums, we hope to recruit more people into our movement and strengthen our organizing efforts.
By connecting activists from upstate to the strong activist network downstate, Metro Justice is playing an important role in building a stronger statewide movement. If you want to win a universal health-care plan, please consider getting involved in this crucial moment of our struggle for health-care justice. Email Colin@metrojustice.org for more information on how you can get involved in our movements.
Finance Committee report
By John Keevert
Thanks to a couple of bequests in the last decade, Metro Justice has avoided cash flow problems. The bequests didn’t specify a particular use, and we weren’t sure of the best use for the funds, so until we decided, we held the money in relatively safe certificates of deposit at Community Development Financial Institutions like the Genesee Co-op Credit Union. It now appears that we aren’t likely to be buying a building or some other major capital project, so we would like to get a better return on the money than the very low interest that CDs currently earn to help fund our ongoing activities.
The Finance Committee has explored a diverse variety of socially responsible, no-load mutual funds that have had a good long-term track records. What we proposed, and the Metro Justice Education Fund Council accepted, was to keep about half the bequest money (50%) in CDs, and invest the rest as follows:
Parnassus Equity Income Fund (large-cap) Symbol PRBLX:20%
Ariel Appreciation stock (mid-cap) CAAPX:10%
Pax MSCI International ESG Index Fund (International large-cap) PXINX:5%
Parnassus Small Cap Fund (small-cap) PARSX:5%
Parnassus Fixed Income Fund (intermediate term bonds)PRFIX: 10%
The switchover to mutual funds will occur gradually over the next six months as money becomes available when CDs mature. We consider this a fairly “conservative” financial move, since if the stock market falters for a while, we would still have substantial resources in CDs to tap without having to sell deflated stocks. Looking at “average” earnings in each category, we might expect to be seeing a 4.7% annual return on the total bequest money, much better than the barely 0.5% we see now (but short term results could be quite different, even negative).
The committee wants to particularly thank member Ken Traub for his insights and especially his efforts to assemble financial data, and explain it to us.
Ciudad Hermana/Sister City report
By John Keevert
We are very grateful to the First Unitarian Church grants panel and congregation for approving our request for a $2,000 grant from the Paul Wenger Fund for Peace Through International Understanding.
This will enable us to bring our Nicaraguan program contractor Martha Rojas and long term volunteer Ashley Sullivan back to Rochester this fall to generate enthusiasm for our projects. We intend to set up a number of interviews and meetings for Martha and Ashley with city officials, local schools, civic organizations like Rotary, churches, and possible business connections. If you have venues where it would be appropriate for Martha to speak, please let Pat Corcoran (Pcorc@aol.com) know.
Ciudad Hermana received this grant in the past, and we were able to bring the El Sauce mayor or our program contractor to Rochester. These trips have resulted in mutual understanding, new donations, medical personnel exchanges, as well as business opportunities and a continuing international connection with SUNY Geneseo.
We and the citizens of El Sauce appreciate the work done by Ashley Sullivan supporting our scholarship and special projects there. Ashley grew up in Hilton, and her mother, Patti Sullivan, recently took on coordination of the Rochester side of the scholarship program.
Racial Justice report
By Pat Mannix
It was a hot July Friday night with a street dance on Nassau St. near Joseph Ave. Police were called to arrest an intoxicated partier there. Several youth confronted them and were also arrested. Then rumors of a police dog biting a child became the match that lit the tinder. The violence escalated and continued over the weekend. By Monday morning, 350 people, including 35 police, had been injured, and four were dead. Over 800 had been arrested. Property damage was estimated at more than $1 million. It was 1964, and Rochester was in a state of shock.
White city leaders and residents in both the city and county did not see the signs that this bonfire of rebellion was building. With the recent diaspora of Southern blacks to Rochester, conditions of unemployment and substandard housing combined with growing prejudice and segregation created a climate that was just waiting to ignite.
In the aftermath groups formed to address the underlying problems. FIGHT, Friends of FIGHT (Metro Justice), and Action for a Better Community (ABC) continue to this day.
Let's re-examine the statistics to measure the progress we have made since 1964. In a report issued this year by ACT Rochester, Rochester can now claim the title of second poorest in the country among comparably sized cities, with 50.4% of households led by a single mother living in poverty. The current state minimum wage of $8 per hour is below both the living wage rate of $28.14 for one adult and two children and even below the poverty rate of $8.80 in our area. In education, we have the worst performing urban district in the entire state; this year the district posted a graduation rate of 43%, the state's lowest. And whatever the statistic, people of color always fare the worst across the board.
So, it's July again, 50 years later. Conditions have not improved for most. Indeed, many who were living a lower middle class life no longer are. The heat and humidity are here once again. Is the handwriting on the wall? Are we reading it?
By Grania Marcus
This spring, the Rochester Committee on Latin America (ROCLA) prepared for the 25th Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan stop in Rochester on July 4th.
For over 20 years, Pastors for Peace and ROCLA have participated in challenging the unjust and punitive US trade embargo, imposed after the Cuban Revolution more than 50 years ago. Callie Rabe, ROCLA’s Cuba Caravan coordinator, and several volunteers, sorted and labeled our donations of medicines, medical equipment and construction supplies.
The Steering Committee has also been engaged in an ongoing planning process that began in June, facilitated by Metro Justice Vice-President Denise Young. This process includes evaluating ROCLA’s work, expanding its outreach to and involvement with other local and national groups, and building our membership base.
Contact Dr. Arnold Matlin, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you are interested in Latin America and would like to be put on ROCLA’s email list to receive information and our quarterly newsletter.
By Luis Torres
Joan Collins Lambert’s article in this issue states why we are ready to take on our newest campaign, the “Fight for 15,” and why it is so important for us to do the work to ensure that fast food workers deserve a living wage. I just want to stress that only a member-driven organization like ours is able to put the time and resources to engage workers that traditionally have been thought of incapable of being organized--we are building worker power that is needed to build our larger movement!
I believe this also gives us the opportunity to change the way we do all of our other work. Our commitment to campaigns like these one is not based on a belief on legislation as the answer to economic disparity; we see it as a stepping stone to build a larger movement. In addition to our Fight for 15 work, Metro Justice is joining the call for a higher minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, indexed to inflation. We are doing so in a time when politicians traditionally would have an easy out by saying that the minimum wage is already going up.
That being said, we still need commit to building the real solution: community and worker power. It is this work in other parts of the state that has helped to put attention back again on the minimum wage, and it is that kind of work that will build our ability to create an atmosphere for change in Rochester.
Our commitment to create an atmosphere for change on the state level will also influence and be influenced by our work for the Fight for 15. Our partnership with the Working Families Party and Citizen Action of New York helps us create that atmosphere, even though we do not get involved in endorsement and other political work. Our role is a specific one, and we would love to discuss with you what that looks like in depth; check out my blog post TITLE HERE at URL HERE, for more insight into that process.
Ours is a role that your membership makes possible. Thank you again for being a Metro Justice Member.