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The Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc., a multi-issue economic justice organization, is requesting your help in organizing a news conference next Monday (March 11) to discuss the impact of sequester on our community. We will invite area residents and leaders of local human services agencies to highlight the significant cuts to programs and services that will occur if Congress does not take action. Those gathered will discuss how these automatic cuts to domestic spending will have a devastating impact on our local community.

We need your assistance to make this event a success. Please contact us if you or your agency can speak and share information on how these cuts will cripple serves for our most vulnerable citizens. We are also compiling data on the possible impact of these cuts.

The Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc. will be providing in the next day detailed information as to the location, date, and time for the event. Please let us know if you can serve as a speak or know of individuals and clients who can tell their stories of how federally funded programs have made a difference in their lives.

We also need help in the following ways: making posters, conducting a short survey of local groups, making calls to invite individuals and groups to attend.

Please respond to the following email address: cnycitizenaction@gmail.com. You can also call me at 315-725-0974.

Thank you for your support.

Best,

John Furman

John Furman
President
Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc.
P.O. Box 411
Utica, NY 13503-0411
315-725-0974
cnycitizenaction@gmail.com

Dear community member,

Rev. Jeff McArn, Chaplain of Hamilton College, has initiated a Community Book Read and discussion on the topic of mass incarceration in America. These discussions are based upon the work of Michelle Alexander author of The New Jim Crow, the book which all of us will be reading. There are two groups underway on the Hamilton campus.

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You are invited to join a Utica reading/discussion group to be held at the Refugee Center at 7PM on March 12 and 26th. Attorney Michelle Alexander will speak on the Hamilton campus April 17th during this spring semester. With your registration an e-book can be made available to you, free of charge, and there are a few hard copies available as well.

Michelle Alexander’s new book offers a new understanding of the continuing problem of race in America. Just as the institution of slavery ended and the brutality of the KKK developed to establish Jim Crow segregation and the further economic exploitation of Black Americans, in the same way, the waging of the War On Drugs, exclusively in poor Black communities has created a new Jim Crow society.

The pervasive conviction of Black men with drug felonies in the American judicial system tacitly relegates them to second class citizenship status where their right to vote, ability to hold certain jobs, acquire school loans or receive scholarships for higher education, visit with their children, the right to serve on a jury and access to housing are all greatly diminished. The impact upon the Black family has been disastrous.

The cultural construct which has established this racial caste system will be discussed through a discussion guide provided by the Unitarian Universalist Church with an ultimate intention of dismantling the same.

Please join us for this important community conversation for two sessions in March and a joint session to convene all community book readers after Attorney Alexander completes her remarks on April 17 at Hamilton College.

Please contact: forthegoodinc@gmail.com if you are interested.

Harlem’s historic Riverside Church where Martin Luther King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech was packed with hundreds of people who came to listen to a panel about mass incarceration on September 14, 2012. It was the second annual gathering at the church where the theme of the night was ending mass incarceration and closing Attica Prison.

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In 1971 the world witnessed the Attica Prison uprising which started in response to the targeted assassination of Black Panther and prisoner George Jackson at San Quentin Prison by guards. Jackson, sentenced to life in prison for stealing $70, was a leading voice in the prisoner movement of the 1960s-70s. This movement included the organization of prisoners’ unions, prisoner strikes and the support of celebrities like Pete Seeger and Muhammad Ali. The demands of the Attica prisoners included an end to slave labor at the prison and religious freedom among others.

The uprising ended with the tragic killing of 39 people, including 10 prison guards and employees, at the hands of NY State Police sent in by Governor Rockefeller. After the prison was recaptured a number of white officers were heard yelling celebratory chants of “white power!”

The uprising marked the height of the prisoner movement of the time but the conservative Right soon dominated the narrative over the prison and criminal justice systems. The emphasis was now on law and order, maximum sentencing and the extensive use of cheap prison labor for profit.

At the time of the Attica Prison uprising the US prison population was roughly 200,000. That number reached   1.2 million by the early 90s and through the draconian policies under the War on Drugs is currently over 2 million and growing. While the US has 5% of the world’s population, it claims 25% of the world’s prison population.

The Justice Department recently proved that the War on Drugs has absolutely nothing to do with ending the sale and use of drugs in the US in their decision to not criminally prosecute anyone from HSBC after it was revealed that officials in the bank laundered millions of dollars to narco-traffickers.

The San Jose Mercury News journalist Gary Webb proved this in 1996 with his award-winning coverage of the crack-cocaine epidemic. He uncovered a damning story that revealed the proliferation of crack-cocaine in poor urban communities started with the CIA and the rightwing paramilitary Contras in Nicaragua working together to bring the drugs into South Central LA. Drug kingpin Ricky “Freeway” Ross sold these drugs to gangs in LA who then sold them elsewhere. The rest, as they say, is history.

Drugs have taken a heavy toll on Utica. But while the ones who bring drugs into the community remain above the law, those caught with minor possession are thrown in prison. In the New York Times bestseller “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” written by Michelle Alexander, the author argues that the criminal justice system  acts as a form of racial control and has created, in part through the War on Drugs, a caste-like system in the US.

Alexander shared the stage with Angela Davis, Cornel West, Jazz Hayden and Marc Lamont Hill. They all spoke of the movement now forming to end mass incarceration. It was no coincidence that the event in Harlem took place 41 years and a day after the Attica uprising. It is important to not just reflect but also act to ebb the rising tide of mass incarceration, not just for Black people but for all that are affected by this prison nation we live in.

Brendan Maslauskas Dunn

Facing foreclosure, Mary Smith of 53 Cutler Street, Rochester, NY 14621, is pledging to stay in her home and not let American Tax Funding put her out of her longtime home.  Take Back the Land Rochester is pledging to support her. Mary and her community are prepared to nonviolently resist attempts to displace if necessary.

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Her house is scheduled to go to auction 10am February 26 at the Monroe County Office Building. A petition circulated both by door-to-door canvassing and online posting is calling for ATF to call off the auction and negotiate. Over 525 signatures have been received to date and the number continues to grow.

Mary Smith has lived at 53 Cutler Street for 30 years, raising six children. She paid off her mortgage to ES&L 12 years ago. She is the Vice President of the Cutler Street Plus Block Club and has been a commanding force in the community for decades. She is affectionately known as the “Mayor of Cutler Street,” who has severed hundreds of hotdogs to neighbor kids at kickball games. In her dining room she displays a large promotional poster featuring her as a poster person for volunteerism.

Although Mary has a long history of paying her bills, serious health problems have fell on Mary and she fell behind on her taxes.  Although she always tried to catch up it seemed she was only paying off the interest. To make matters worse, the City of Rochester and the County of Monroe sold her tax liens to a for-profit company in Florida called American Tax Funding (ATF).  A predatory privatization scheme, American Tax Funding charges usurious interest on the liens of Rochester residents going through financial hardship even though it buys the liens from the City and the County from .43 to 49 cents on the dollar.

After having serious health problems that often left her unable to work, Mary has now qualified for disability, has steady income, and is willing and able to pay off her liens to American Tax Funding.  However, despite repeated attempts to set up payment plans and, to work out a settlement.  ATF will not answer her lawyer’s calls and is planning to auction off her house for as much profit as possible on February 26, 2013.  Mary is courageously and defiantly standing up against American Tax Funding and we stand will her.  An auction protest is scheduled for 10am at February 26 at the County Building and a community eviction defense is planned if ATF (or an investor ATF sells the house to) tries evict the Mary from her home.

On Monday, February 11th, Mary and a dozen supporters from Take Back the Land Rochester hand delivered a letter pleading her case to the local law firm, Phillips Lyttle, representing American Tax Funding.  There is an early but preliminary indication of movement by ATF as a result of the letter.  You can stay updated at http://TakeBackthelandRochester.org/MarySmith

“Strike Story”, a play based on the events of the Little Falls 1912 Textile Strike, will be presented on March 2, 2013 at 7 PM at the Masonic Temple in Little Falls. First produced for the Strike Centennial in October, the play uses newspaper reports, government documents, and personal memoirs to tell the story of the strike in the voices of the participants.

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The readers’ theatre format makes the immediate connection between the original language and the story of the strike. Written by Angela Harris of Little Falls, the play is directed by Matt Powers, also of Little Falls. Among the cast are local residents Katie Drake, Laura Hailston Powers, Tom Stock, Frank Wilcox, and Robert and Barbara Albrecht, and former resident Jeanne McAvoy.

The Strike began on October 9, 1912, with a walkout of women mill workers in response to a reduction of weekly wages. Lasting three months, the strike involved Polish, Italian, Slovak, and Slovenian immigrant workers who were assisted by national union organizers, including Matilda Rabinowitz, Big Bill Haywood, and Ben Legere. Helen Keller contributed to the strike fund. The Strike brought a national spotlight to the city; and locally, one hundred years later, there are still strong feelings about the implications of the strike for the long term economic health the area.

March is Women’s History Month, and “Strike Story” presents a piece of Little Falls history that shows the role of women in cultural, social, and economic history of the city.

Tickets are available at $5 at The Mustard Seed in Canal Place. Tickets will be available at the theater door, starting at 6:30 on Saturday, March 2 before the performance. The Masonic Temple is at 5 Prospect Street, Little Falls.

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Monday, February 25
6:30-8:00pm
Utica Public Library in the Gallery

Free to the public!

The Black Panther Party has been vilified as extreme, violent and anti-white. This presentation will dispel these myths by showing the community organizing tradition of the Panthers, their coalitions with other groups and COINTELPRO – the government program created to destroy the Panthers and the New Left of the 1960s-70s. Special attention will be given to the community programs of the Panthers such as the free breakfast program and free community clinics. Come listen to this exciting history accompanied with a power-point presentation.

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The French monthly publication Le Monde Diplomatique published an article about Occupy Utica in its January edition. According to Le Monde’s website, the French leftwing publication, which has seventy-two editions in twenty-seven languages, reaches an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide. The editors of the paper selected the article on Occupy Utica from fifty other articles from the book recently published by AK Press We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation.

This publication comes at a time when Occupy Utica activists are strategizing over grassroots organizing in the community, with talk of launching a Freedom School, fighting for tenants’ rights and working with others to open a community organizing center. Although the Occupy Movement does not have the bite or momentum it did in its early days, and was suppressed by the FBI, many groups like Occupy Utica are still active across the US. Occupy Sandy Relief, Occupy our Homes and Strike Debt / Rolling Jubilee are some of the major campaigns launched out of Occupy that are still humming with activity.

The article can be viewed in the AK Press book We Are Many, available at http://www.akpress.org, or can be read in Le Monde Diplomatique. As the article states, “It is in small cities like Utica where the real power of a social movement is measured and where parallel grassroots power can thrive.” Perhaps the editors of Le Monde picked up on that and decided to share it with the world.

Brendan Maslauskas Dunn

This is part of the article in French

Pendant ce temps, à Utica

par Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, janvier 2013

Loin de se limiter à l’île de Manhattan, le mouvement Occuper Wall Street s’est répandu à travers les Etats-Unis, y compris dans de petites villes — telle Utica, Etat de New York — où il a revêtu un visage bien plus revendicatif.

« Utica partage le destin de la plupart des petites villes de la Rust Belt [la « ceinture de la rouille », c’est-à-dire les Etats du Nord-Est industriel]. Jadis centre économique florissant — présence d’une industrie textile et de General Electric, en particulier—, elle a été, au cours des cinquante dernières années, désertée par la plupart des grandes industries ; sa population fut divisée par deux. Désormais, les principaux employeurs sont des prisons et un centre de distribution Walmart. La ville n’est plus que l’ombre d’elle-même. Le capitalisme n’a pas été tendre avec elle, mais Occuper lui a insufflé de l’espoir.

« Utica n’a pas, loin s’en faut, de tradition protestataire, mais quand le mouvement Occuper est apparu au beau milieu d’une nuit, (…)

http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/

http://mondediplo.com/

http://www.akpress.org/wearemany.html

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