It seems like yesterday, but it was 20 years ago when I was glued to the television watching Anita Hill take on Clarence Thomas and the Senate Judiciary Committee. I believed Prof. Hill then and I respect her even more now. Corporate power won that battle. Judge Thomas has been the reactionary and underwhelming jurist that many feared he would be. If there are two words that mandate the re-election of President Obama, they are "Supreme Court."
This year ... right now, in the wake of the Arab Spring, young people in New York City have been joined by people across the nation and the world in an effort to fight corporate power and further modify the course of history through the movement. None of us can predict the outcome, but the effort thus far has been inspirational and empowering. Certainly Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—historically memorialized this past weekend in Washington, D.C.—would have approved of the OWS actions and intent.
It is this ongoing inter- and cross-generational struggle for justice that has led me to work with a start-up non-profit law firm, Advocates for Justice -- or "A4J" -- as its Executive Director.
Advocates for Justice was formed to assist communities mobilizing around critical issues with their legal needs. Since its formation just this past January, A4J has already helped more neighborhoods become eligible for 9/11 victim compensation fund coverage, challenged the hiring of former Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, forced a cancellation of improperly run school elections, sued charter schools for $100 million of rent they have not paid for public school space, represented parents fighting charter school co-locations in their schools without due process, and assisted workers being exploited by unscrupulous employers.
With minimal funding, A4J ran a 12-week internship program for 16 law school and college students who helped make the cases possible—and who gained valuable experience for themselves as well. And A4J benefited from the work of public-spirited attorneys working pro bono.
But we need help and these are indeed difficult times. Please join me in supporting Advocates for Justice at our first annual Fall Awards Reception on Friday, November 4th (6 pm - 8:30 pm).
Our honorees are courageous individuals and organizations and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments while welcoming our new members of the Board of Directors. Tickets are $100. If you or your organization would like to be a name sponsor, we have sponsorship packages as well. Our goal is simple: raise $50,000 to fund attorneys to work with us full time. Help us help others get justice.
I look forward to seeing you on November 4th, and if you cannot attend, please make a donation or buy a ticket for someone who can't afford one right now. Thank you for your consideration and your generosity!
And before you come to our reception on November 4th, think about a contribution of money or time in Binghamton, New York. Decimated by floodwaters, parts of Binghamton have experienced Katrina-like population displacement. This displacement has unfortunate consequences such as this one. A progressive African-American member of the City Council, Ms. Lea Webb, is being challenged by a Republican candidate she previously defeated when he was a Democrat!
Lea Webb is a real community organizer who had built a strong volunteer base when first winning her seat. She made history as the first and youngest African American to win a Council seat. Now, however, both her volunteers and her voting base have been displaced. She needs help in locating, contacting and educating displaced voters so she can win re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 1. This victory is
important for Binghamton and New York State. Please help by making a contribution here or by volunteering to assist Lea Webb's campaign.
On local issues:
Boerum Hill BID - The new BID coming to Atlantic Avenue will probably be a good thing for the area. I agree, however, with those who have expressed a larger concern about New York City abdicating its responsibility for service delivery by essentially "outsourcing" responsibilities and costs to BIDs in a manner that provides little to no benefit to lower-income communities, in particular.
39th Council District - Councilman Brad Lander's effort to increase citizen participation in municipal budgeting through an "open competition" for the designation of all or a portion of $1,000,000 deserves praise. Unfortunately, the needs will greatly exceed the resources in this case, but greater participation is the way we need to go.
Park Slope Library Branch (6th Ave & 9th St) - Here is an example of how municipal budgeting can be improved. The delays involved with this capital project are ridiculous.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Letdown - Speaking of ridiculous, there are many reasons to enjoy BBP, but some of those associated with the proposed indoor athletic field will now be even more elusive. I admit I have never liked this project, but the loss of the "recreational bubble" confirms some of my worst fears. I was hoping to be wrong.
The Lincoln Statue in Grand Army Plaza - Why is this even an issue? The City should face the statue north as was originally intended (I am a past President of the Weeksville Society and I believe in respecting history.) Thank you, Richard Kessler, for making a stink about this.
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries vs. Congressman Ed Towns - No candidate has discussed this potential contest with me directly—and I'm conflicted. A battle in 2012? Why should Democratic incumbents be spending time, energy and money battling each other in a year when the focus should be on beating Republicans ... and defending a Democratic President and our Supreme Court? And why should a promising legislator give up certain re-election for the uncertainty of a Democratic primary battle against a powerful incumbent? We don't even know yet what the Congressional district lines will look like -- and the Primary election may be moved to a date as early as mid-June! Speaking objectively, this battle is tailor-made for 2014 -- not 2012.
Thank you for reading! A thinking people is a powerful people.