Mary Johnson, March 29, 1922-Aug. 13, 2017

It is with great sadness that the Progressive Action Roundtable Planning Committee informs our readers that Mary Johnson, a founding member of PAR and leader, strategist and active participant in most of PAR’s committees, has passed on.

We dedicate this issue of our newsletter to Mary. Without her guidance, ideas for informing the public and each other of rallies and events, optimism in the struggle for justice and her persistence in fighting for people’s rights throughout the years, there may not have even been a Progressive Action Roundtable. We all owe so much to her.

Frank Panzarella, “Mary was the den mother for most of the New Haven activist community.”

Mary was directly active in many of the organizations that are PAR-affiliated. She was also active in most of New Haven’s progressive organizations. She most likely was a founding member of many.
She was a great political and personal influence on many. PAR encourages our readers to send in their reminiscences of her. In the words of Frank Panzarella, “Mary was the den mother for most of the New Haven activist community.”

A memorial is being planned for her with details upcoming.

Mary Johnson’s voice was heard

The following are excerpts from the article in the New Haven Independent. Our thanks to Joan Cavanagh for working on this tribute. The full article can be read at www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/obituaries/entry/mary_d._johnson_95.

The white-haired schoolteacher was always polite when she confronted politicians, business leaders, or anyone else standing in the way of social justice. She didn’t yell at them.

She did press her case. And she didn’t let up. She was a fixture of New Haven protest politics for a half century, back to her days demonstrating against the Vietnam War and getting jailed in the 1970 city teachers strike. Since then she has marched against foreign military interventions, for a nuclear freeze, against military contracting, for striking workers and union-organizing drives, and for racial justice and preserving downtown bus stops, among many other causes….

Mary Johnson’s family was an important part of her life, but an equally significant part was her ongoing labor, peace, civil rights and social justice activism and the relationships forged in the course of that work. One of her earliest experiences was as a neighborhood activist who initiated the formation of the West Hills Community Council in the mid-1950s. She described it as a group whose goal was “to make [neighborhood] life better, independent of politicians…to make politicians work for you on neighborhood issues.”…

Although she had been involved in some anti-nuclear arms race demonstrations in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mary said that the Vietnam War propelled her further into peace work. During the 1960s and 1970s, hers was a familiar face on all-night bus rides from New Haven to Washington, D.C. for large anti-war demonstrations. In the 1980s, she continued to travel to Washington to protest United States intervention in Central America, and was arrested in April 1986 with others in the rotunda of the Capitol building for sitting in front of a bust of Martin Luther King and reading from the speech he made having decided that “the time had come” for him to publicly oppose the war in Vietnam. Periodically, they said in unison, “That time has come for us in relation to Nicaragua.” After a weeklong trial, charges were dismissed.

Mary also continued her peace activism more locally. She was a member of Spinsters Opposed to Nuclear Genocide (SONG), a New Haven based women’s affinity group, joining them in demonstrations at the local military recruiting station as well as at General Dynamics Corporation’s Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton. During the 1992 Christmas shopping season, she was arrested with another activist at a Bradlees store in East Haven for placing stickers which read “Don’t Buy War Toys” on items such as G.I. Joe figures. This latter incident reveals much about Mary’s character. She and other participants managed to walk out of the store without being stopped. One member of the group, Stephen Kobasa, was, however, roughly apprehended. When Mary saw this, she returned, waiting for police to arrive. “The Bradlees Two” were initially charged with “criminal mischief in the first degree,” a felony, but the charges were reduced in court and the case was settled….

Mary joined the New Haven Federation of Teachers in 1967, and she was a member of the Executive Board until her retirement. In 1970 and again in 1975, teachers who were perceived as leaders were sent to jail for contempt of court for defying injunctions not to strike. In 1970, Mary was the only woman among the 14 jailed….

Mary was active in the United Farmworkers’ Union movement as part of a New Haven committee that leafleted, picketed, and passed out information about the boycott of Gallo wine (made from grapes picked by non-union workers). After UFW organizers were called back to California in the mid-1970s, she continued the local support committee, producing at her own expense a handwritten newsletter about the struggle, which she hand-delivered throughout New Haven….

Over the years, Mary was a prime mover in many other organizations such as the May Day Celebration Committee, the Coalition to Stop Trident, the Pledge of Resistance, and the New Haven Coalition Against War in the Gulf.  She marched and was arrested in support of Yale union Locals 34, 35, and GESO (the Graduate Employee Student Organization, now Local 33.) She was active in the movement to pressure Yale to divest its holdings from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s….

In the 1990s, Mary worked with a group of citizens who were outraged that the City of New Haven, under pressure from a re-developer, removed several key bus stops from the central downtown area to make that portion of the city more “attractive” to tourists visiting Yale. She was also an ongoing, active member of several groups including the Greater New Haven Central Labor Council, the New Haven Federation of Teachers Retirees Chapter, the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, the Coalition for People, the Middle East Crisis Committee, and People Against Injustice.

After a 15-year struggle, the City of New Haven returned all but one of the downtown bus stops, and, on Mary’s 85th birthday in 2007, many of her friends joined her at Mayor John DeStefano’s office to demand the return of the last one to Church and Chapel Streets. DeStefano complied….

Even as her health declined, Mary continued to help coordinate the work of the Coalition for People, the Progressive Action Roundtable newsletter, and the Labor History Association. In her last years and months, she still advocated vocally for single payer health care, making phone calls to elected officials and getting her friends to do the same. She passed away on August 13, more than a year and a half after entering hospice care.

A Tribute to Mary Johnson

Pat Florio, Coalition for People

We mourn the loss of our dear friend, Mary Johnson, who passed away on August 13, 2017. She was the founding member of the Coalition for People and President for many years. She was a New Haven labor, peace, civil rights and social justice activist. A teacher in New Haven public schools and active member of the American Federation of Teachers, she devoted her personal time to many causes, such as the Coalition for People, Progressive Action Roundtable, People Against Injustice, Middle East Crisis Committee, efforts to organize Yale union locals 34 and 35, the anti-Vietnam and anti-Iraq War movements, efforts by the Coalition for People to restore downtown New Haven bus stops (which was accomplished in 2007), Greater New Haven Central Labor Council, and the Greater New Haven Labor History Association. Survivors include her sister, Jane Toles, and her daughters, Mary Johnson, Elizabeth Johnson and Martha Johnson. Her ex-husband, Carl Johnson, passed away in 2001. Mary will be greatly missed. She was a true friend and had the natural ability to convey to you that your friendship with her was important and special. She tried to make this world a better place and she succeeded in many, many ways.

A Tribute to Margery Mills

Pat Florio, Coalition for People

We mourn the loss of our dear friend, Margery Mills, who passed away on May 11, 2017. She was an active member of the Coalition for People and served briefly as Secretary. She participated in the Coalition for People’s long struggle to have New Haven’s downtown bus stops returned to the New Haven Green (which was accomplished in 2007) and participated in organizing efforts to have a National Single Payer Healthcare system. She will be sadly missed by her son, Franklin D. Mills; daughter, Elizabeth S. Amendolagine (James); and many caring friends and neighbors. She was predeceased by husband, John H. Mills; son, Allen R. Mills; brothers, Donald R. Ball, Norman C. Ball Jr., and Erle T. Ball; and sister, Gertrude M. Ball. She also worked at The APT Foundation and The Mother’s Project from 1993-2004. Margery contributed articles to the New Haven Register and Inner-City News spanning the years 1988-2012. She held various positions with numerous CT organizations which included: the Greater New Haven African American Historical Society, National Council of Negro Women, Inc., African American Women’s Summit, Dixwell-Newhallville Senior Center, Stetson Book Club, the New Haven NAACP, East Haven Historical Society, Read to Grow, Coalition for People, and the New Haven Elderly Services. Margery will be greatly missed as she was a vibrant, smart, loyal friend and colleague.

In Memoriam Louis W. (‘Bill’) Berndtson, Jr., Feb. 18, 1934-July 31, 2017

Joan Cavanagh, Former Archivist/ Director, GNHLHA

Louis W. Berndtson, Jr., immediate past president of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, passed away on Monday, July 31, 2017 from complications of pancreatic cancer.

A member of the LHA Executive Board from 2000 until 2016, Bill played multiple roles with dedication, enthusiasm, and skill: treasurer, web master, “go-to guy” for all crises, and self-described “I.T. Geek.” He spearheaded the effort to produce a labor history mural for the entryway to the newly renovated Augusta Lewis Troup School, and co-wrote and edited an award-winning booklet describing the life of the school’s namesake. He also proudly contributed to the successful attempts to legislate a curriculum of labor and working-class history in Connecticut’s public schools, which passed and was signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in July 2015.

Growing up in the Cottage/ Lawrence Street area of New Haven, Bill graduated from Commercial High School. One of his teachers there thought he was “too bright” not to go to college, and personally enrolled him in Southern Connecticut State Teacher’s College in 1952. He did not finish, although, as he said later, he didn’t actually “quit,” he just took a long sabbatical, returning to get his degree in Psychology with a specialization in Mental Health at age 65.

In 1959, after a short stint in the army, Bill went to work as a lab technician at the Yale Medical School. Here began his career as a hard-working union organizer who never actually got to belong to a union. By the time Local 34 finally achieved victory, he had moved on, but his commitment to economic and social justice continued. He became active in the Democratic Party, and got a job with the Unemployed Workers Council of the Greater New Haven Central Labor Council for about a year after the election of Ronald Reagan.

Eight years ago, when he accepted the Labor History Association’s Augusta Lewis Troup Award, Bill said that he had first been motivated to fight for a union because of the personal need to care for his own family, but soon he became a magnet for all the stories of other workers and their stories became part of his own. This kind of empathy and insight guided his life.

Bill’s family has asked any who may wish to make donations in his memory to the Greater New Haven Labor History Association (GNHLHA, 267 Chapel Street, New Haven CT 06513).

On the 200th Birthday of Frederick Douglass Sept. 16

Al Marder, Amistad Committee

A public meeting commemorating the 200th birthday of the prominent African-American voice against slavery, Frederick Douglass, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16, at Criscuolo Park, Chapel and James Street, New Haven at 10 a.m.. It was at this Park, then called Grapevine Point, that Douglass, traveling the country to encourage enlistment in the Army, addressed the volunteers for the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment.

Invited as keynote speaker is Danny Glover, acclaimed actor and civil rights activist. Nathan Richardson, poet actor, will perform. Music will be provided by the Heritage Choral Society. Remarks by Connecticut political figures are also on the program.

“It is important, at this time, when the present administration is attacking all the social gains for which we have struggled all these years, that the New Haven community rally, recalling the past for the present. The Frederick Douglass Commemoration will provide that opportunity. Whatever the issue, we must come together,” declared Al Marder, President, Amistad Committee and Chairman, State of Connecticut Freedom Travel Commitee.

The event, which is free, is sponsored by the Amistad Committee, Inc., Office of the Mayor of New Haven, the Descendants of the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment and the State of Connecticut Freedom Trail Committee.  Rain venue will be at the John Martinez School on James Street.

New Haven Resolution on Shared Solar to be Voted on Sept. 5

Paula Panzarella, New Haven Energy Task Force

The New Haven Energy Task Force and the New Haven Environmental Advisory Council have worked on a resolution to encourage the state politicians to push forward shared solar projects so that more people can benefit from lower electric rates and use renewable energy which is not polluting our atmosphere and will not accelerate climate change.

Below are excerpts of the resolution that will be presented to the Board of Alders (City Hall, 165 Church St., second fl.) on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. From 6-7 p.m. people who are interested can lobby their alders.

We are hoping that other cities and towns will enact similar resolutions so the State of CT will hear that throughout Connecticut the residents want the State to stop holding back the development of shared solar projects.

RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF ALDERS urging the CT General Assembly, Governor Malloy, the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, and the electric distribution companies to support “community shared solar” legislation.

Whereas: the City of New Haven understands the dangers of climate change, pollution and the need to reduce our carbon footprint; and…

Whereas: it is the policy of the State of Connecticut to, in part, “… develop and utilize alternative energy resources, such as solar and wind energy, to the maximum practical extent …” (Energy Policy Act, CGS 16a-35k); and

Whereas: Connecticut residents, and particularly residents of United Illuminating’s service territory, continue to pay some of the highest electricity rates on the continent; and…

Whereas: the development of “community shared solar” installations in New Haven will create well-paying jobs and enhance the city’s overall economic development efforts; and…

Whereas: The Connecticut General Assembly has to date only approved a small pilot program that has continuously been delayed, and has not authorized a full-scale state-wide shared solar program;…

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

The City of New Haven calls on its elected representatives in the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Malloy, the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, and the electric distribution companies to support comprehensive, long-term “community shared solar” legislation, and encourages its residents to become informed about the issue and communicate their views to their representatives.

Take a stand for Connecticut’s environment

Do you care about our climate? Do you care about breathing polluted air? Do you care about energy costs?

Then you need to care about Connecticut’s proposed energy strategy. Ready to take a stand for our energy and environment?

Tell the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Connecticut should be a climate champion. Tell the DEEP the proposed energy strategy falls short. The DEEP issued its draft 2017 Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which will shape state energy policy for the next three years.
BUT, the draft CES plan does not put us on a path to meet our 2020 climate goals and DEEP needs to hear from you!

Here are three key messages you need to tell DEEP:

  1. Ask DEEP to expand the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to 50% by 2030. We need a stronger RPS that requires electric providers to buy a certain percentage of the energy they sell from renewable sources (solar, wind, etc.).
  2. Ask DEEP to establish a better solar market and a statewide, shared solar program.  More rooftop solar and a vibrant shared solar program (for those who can’t put solar on their roof) are vital to help reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, create a resilient electric grid, and strengthen our local economy.
  3. Ask DEEP to speed up adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs), and clean up our transportation pollution.
    Connecticut must meet its promise of 154,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025. Cars and trucks cause nearly 40% of our GHG emissions so we must establish stronger incentives for EVs and add more charging stations.

Comments are due by September 25, 2017, at 4 p.m. Email your comments to: DEEP.EnergyBureau@ct.gov.

You can also mail a hard copy to: Debra Morrell, DEEP – Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy, 10 Franklin Sq., New Britain, CT 06051.

You can also get more information and speak up at one of DEEP’s public meetings:

Wednesday, Sept. 6, 4 p.m., CT DEEP, 79 Elm St., Hartford.
Thursday, Sept. 7, 6:30 p.m. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), Jones Auditorium, Britton Building, 2nd Floor, 123 Huntington St., New Haven.

More information is available at ctenvironment.org.

People’s Congress of Resistance Sept. 16-17

Allan Brison, Party for Socialism and Liberation

Time to Fight Back! Join the People’s Congress of Resistance!

The Trump-Pence regime is waging an all-out assault on the people’s hard-fought rights and vitally needed programs. The US Congress serves the already-rich. It cannot, has not, and will not resist.
A grassroots People’s Congress of Resistance (PCoR) will convene in Washington, DC on Sept. 16-17. Join resisters from LGBTQ groups to Black Lives Matter, to immigrant rights, climate justice, trade union, women’s rights organizations as we unite our communities in real resistance.

A large group of individual conveners and local chapters of peace organizations, Green Party chapters, civil rights organizations such as Showing Up for Racial Justice and Black Lives Matter, anti-fascist organizations and the ANSWER Coalition are endorsing the PCoR.

Individual conveners include:

  • Cindy Sheehan, peace activist
  • Dennis Banks, American Indian Movement
  • Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance
  • Ben Manski, Liberty Tree Foundation; and many others.

The PCoR recognizes that the US Congress’ agenda is only marginally better than that of President Trump. We will be setting the agenda for the many issues in which we need to build mass movements to resist both Trump and Congress. And we will develop the tools to build these movements.

To learn more, email: allan.brison@gmail.com; or Google People’s Congress of Resistance. You may learn more about it through the ANSWER coalition.

There will also be a meeting on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Society at 608 Whitney Ave. in New Haven. This meeting is an opportunity to learn more about the Congress and to get involved.

CT Folk Festival & Green Expo, Saturday, Sept. 9

On Saturday, Sept. 9, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the CT Folk Festival & Green Expo presents their annual free festival of live music, cultural performances, green workshops, children’s activities and more at New Haven’s beautiful Edgerton Park. Enter on 75 Cliff St.

The Green Expo highlights over 75 exhibitors that include handmade artisans and exhibitors with innovative ideas and products for sustainable lifestyles. The New Alliance Foundation Performance Tent will host cultural performances such as Healing Drums percussion workshops, environmental presentations, and garden tours. For all families, the Green Kids’ Village offers hands-on activities and entertainment to engage children of all ages including our huge puppet parade at 3:45 p.m.

Festival Director, Nicole Mikula and the CT Folk Board of Directors will unveil a lineup that celebrates the best in folk music and beyond. New for 2017, The Ballroom Thieves and Livingston Taylor will co-headline the main stage as well as highlighting Forlorn Strangers. Also, the stage for the Grassy Hill Song Circle will be End of America and LadyBird, named appropriately after the festival’s top sponsor, Grassy Hill Entertainment.

Now in its second decade, The CT Folk Festival & Green Expo has organically grown into one of Connecticut’s leading folk festivals as well as presenting the largest Green Expo in the state. The festival has earned its reputation by attracting premier talent across all mediums to provide a landscape meant to please all the senses.

Proceeds will benefit CT Folk, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to traditional and contemporary roots music and to caring for the Earth.

$5 suggested donation to continue CT Folk’s efforts. Info: Nicole Heriot-Mikula, Festival Director nicole@ctfolk.com. Call: 917-576-9147, or go to www.ctfolk.org.

Seymour’s Senior Center To Comply With ADA Accessibility Standards

Joe Luciano, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

Seymour’s senior center has agreed to comply with ADA 1990 accessibility mandates after an investigation by the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In February 2016 I filed a complaint after observing that the center’s picnic grove and its two picnic tables were inaccessible. Many center members use wheelchairs. A 6-inch curb posed a barrier to the grove; a crosswalk was absent. The picnic tables were built by town high school students who, together with their teachers, were unaware that the ADA requires picnic tables to be wheelchair accessible.

Rather than making a simple modification (adding extensions to the table ends), the center removed the tables and closed the grove. The center will also post larger signs at its public entrance indicating the location of the accessible entrance. (Existing signs were too small and could only be read after climbing the steps to the able-bodied entrance.) The center will also fix the inoperable doorbell at its acces-sible entrance and post signage giving phone numbers for contacting center staff.

For more information: DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com.

ICE Overrides Blumenthal on Deportation | NHIndy

Christopher Peak, New Haven Independent, Aug 21, 2017

Marco Antonio Reyes Alvarez, the undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant who has found sanctuary from deportation in a church downtown, might face a pro-longed stay at First & Summerfield due to a new directive that limits the ability of members of Congress to halt remov-al orders. Federal legislators have regularly introduced “private immigration bills,” which, if passed, would grant permanent legal residency to a person who entered the coun-try illegally. More importantly, while the private immigra-tion bills were being considered, federal agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used to hold off on deporting the individual. If a U.S. senator was willing to stick his neck out for an undocumented immigrant, author-ities would take that into consideration before kicking the immigrant out of the country. Read the full article at NewHavenIndependent.org.

New Haven Stands with Standing Rock petitioning Mayor Harp to cut ties with Wells Fargo Bank

Dear Friends,

Thank you for signing our petition asking the City of New Haven to move its operating budget out of Wells Fargo bank to a local or regional bank that is big enough to handle the account but is not guilty of gross violations of human rights (such as funding the Dakota Access pipeline) and customers’ rights not to be cheated, such as has been exposed multiple times at Wells Fargo. This is part of a powerful national (and international) campaign.

Sign the petition here if you haven’t already

https://goo.gl/forms/wAS2UwHHGhTdu83v2

We’ve met with Mayor Harp and her controller. We’ve collected many hundreds of signatures on our petition in person, and the link to the electronic version is below, in hopes that you will help us spread the word through social media or your own personal lists. (Signers must be New Haven residents.)

Please come to our rally on Aug. 31 to press the mayor to do the right thing, and invite your friends, family and co-workers.

New Haven: Cut Ties with Wells Fargo!
WHAT: Rally to demand the City move its operating funds out of Wells Fargo bank
WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 31, 4:30-6 p.m.
WHERE: Outside City Hall, 165 Church St. (across from the Green)
WHO: Everyone who wants justice for the Standing Rock Sioux (we’ll have an update) and the taxpayers of New Haven
WHY: Wells Fargo invested in the Dakota Access pipeline and invests in other dirty energy projects and immigration detention facilities; it has been caught several times ripping off its own customers; Wells Fargo is not a safe place for our money!

Solidarity,

Melinda for NHSwSR

Sign the petition here if you haven’t already

https://goo.gl/forms/wAS2UwHHGhTdu83v2

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