Lula White Receives Thurgood Marshall Award

Lula White of New Haven holds the mug shot from her 1961 arrest.

Lula White of New Haven holds the mug shot from her 1961 arrest.

Lula White of New Haven, a former Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights Movement [and a long-time member of PAR], received the Quinnipiac U. Black Law Students Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award on Feb. 25.

The Marshall Award is given in honor of the first African-American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall epitomized individual commitment to civil rights.

White was born in Eufaula, Alabama, to parents who were farm workers. When she was young, her family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and then to New Haven, where she attended Hillhouse High School.

In 1954 she became a civil rights activist after reading an article about the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ended legal segregation in public schools. To read more about Lula White’s receipt of the award, visit The New Haven Register or Quinnipiac U News and Events. or WTNH.com.

‘Fracked Gas is Environmental Racism’: Balloon Banner Released at Bridgeport City Hall

by Dan Fischer, Capitalism vs. the Climate

On February 1, Bridgeport residents flooded a public hearing with opposition to PSEG’s proposed fracked gas power plant, which would replace its coal plant in 2021. As 10 year-old Jaysa Mellers urged, “No coal, no gas, go green!”, a Bridgeport-based member of Capitalism vs. the Climate released a banner tied to a bundle of balloons. The banner floated to the high ceiling, and city councillors and residents read its message: “Fracked gas is environmental racism! No coal, no gas!”

gracked-gas-enviro-racism-300x283“Environmental racism is when an unfair share of pollution is placed on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. That’s what is happening in Bridgeport. PSEG is making it worse by trying to open a new gas plant, which would continue to release pollution in the air for decades,” said Gabriela Rodriguez, a nineteen year-old Bridgeport resident and a member of Capitalism vs. the Climate.

PSEG reports that its new gas plant would release into the air nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, lead, and other pollutants, causing emphysema, bronchitis, learning deficits, heart disease, cancer, and asthma triggers. Moreover, fracked gas is highly flammable and known to frequently leak. The result can be deadly. From 1995 to 2014, there were 371 deaths and 1,395 injuries due to reported pipeline incidents.

PSEG wants to put the gas plant where the coal plant currently stands, locking in decades of fossil fuel infra-structure in an area where 30 percent of residents are black and 30 percent are Latino. To add insult to injury, PSEG’s proposed gas plant, like its existing coal plant, would stand adjacent to the Mary and Eliza Freeman houses, the oldest houses in Connecticut built and owned by African Americans. From 1821 until the Civil War, the neighbor-hood had been a prosperous community of free people of color including African Americans and indigenous Paugussets. Historians say it may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.

“By putting a gas plant here, PSEG is basically saying that black lives do not matter to them,” declared Tiffany Mellers, a Bridgeport resident, mother of Jaysa. Visit http://capitalismvsclimate.org for more information.

Want to Be on a Delegation to Nicaragua?

Chris Schweitzer, Director, NHLSCP

New Haven/León Sister City Project has sent over 1,200 area residents to Nicaragua since 1984 to learn about development efforts there and support social justice. We are now organizing two new trips including an Educators Delegation, which will focus on education challenges in rural Nicaragua; strategies for improving quality; teacher training and curriculum support; and a cooperative project with the community, set for July 2016. Contact Chris at  cscschweitzer@newhavenleon.org, (203) 259-5760.

Also there will be a Women Rights Delegation in 2016. The focus will be on domestic violence; legal responses; community based advocacy; self help groups and building individual and collective power; sexual and reproductive rights; national realities, challenges and movements in Nicaragua; and will include a cooperative project with the community.  We will set the dates  (7 to 9 days) based on your availability. Contact Megan at mfountain@newhavenleon.org or (203) 562-1607.

Green Party Fund Raising to Get on 2016 Ballot

by Barbara Barry, Secretary, Green Party of Connecticut

The next State Central Committee (SCC) meeting of the CT Green Party is Wednesday, Feb. 3. Social time is from 6 to 6:30 p.m. The SCC meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Portland Waverly Center, 7 Waverly Avenue, Portland, Conn.

Jill Stein of Massachusetts has agreed to come to the GPCT event to raise funds for whomever is selected to be the GPUS presidential candidate at the 2016 GPUS Nominating Convention (likely to be in June or July). The purpose of the GPCT fundraiser is to acquire sufficient funds to successfully petition, i.e. acquire the CT ballot line for a GPUS presidential candidate.

Another fundraiser will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Portland Waverly Center. Potluck food and beverages. Bring items for fundraising: books, etc.

William “Bill” Kreml of South Carolina is willing to be a speaker at a GPCT March 2016 fundraiser. He is one of five vetted persons seeking the nomination to be the 2016 GPUS presidential candidate. The other persons are Darryl Cherney, Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza Curry, Kent Mesplay and Jill Stein. A specific date, time and place of this fundraiser are yet to be determined. All GPCT members are invited to the above events…and bring a friend!

Amistad Awards Rally Calls for Justice for All

by Joelle Fishman, CT People’s World

From Ariel Johnson’s beautiful rendition of Change is Gonna Come to the closing performance by Ice the Beef Stop the Violence Start the Peace, the 2015 People’s World Amistad Awards inspired young and old alike with its message of unity and struggle.

Themed “Justice for All – In Solidarity with Black and Latino Youth – Stop the Right-wing Attacks,” the event greeted actions by youth to end racism and achieve a future with hope and dignity.

“The 2016 elections are the battleground for every democratic right we’ve ever won,” declared Joelle Fishman in the Call to Action. “We can stop….candidates who want to bring us back 175 years. We will not go back! We must go forward!”

Awardees included Jill Marks, a leader of New Haven Rising and Alder-elect in Ward 28; Ciro Gutierrez, member-leader of SEIU 32 BJ building cleaners union in Hartford, and Cindy Harrity, Communication Workers of America Local 1298 organizer, retired.

Marks said she was moved to become a grassroots leader after knocking on thousands of doors and hearing the problems of ordinary families. She urged those present to join the fight for good jobs and attend a New Haven Rising rally Dec. 12.

Gutierrez, born in Peru, described how he became involved in the social movement during the right-wing coup in his country. When his family came to U.S. after losing their public sector jobs to privatization, he continued his commitment to workers’ rights through his union.

Harrity, unable to project her voice due to illness, prepared comments read by husband John Harrity. Cindy, well known for her successes as a union organizer, urged those present to “be unreasonable” when confronted with exploitation, unfairness or any injustice.

The awards were held on the 96th anniversary of the Communist Party USA. Edie Fishman, who joined the YCL at 14, now in her 80th year in the working-class movement, received flowers from the youth. She recounted experiences which won social security, unemployment compensation, health and safety on the job, and ending Jim Crow racial segregation. “When we stick together and fight together we can win,” she said.

Performances also included Capoeira by Raca em Moviemento Dance Studio and poetry by Gaylord Slaters and Aaron Jafferis.

We’ll Always Have Paris: Reflections from COP21

By Sarah Ganong, a New Haven-based climate activist

sarah-ganongBy the time you’re reading this, I’ll have been home from the COP21 climate talks in Paris for about six weeks. I attended the conference as an NGO observer, spending long days in the former-airport-turned-conference space running between meetings, negotiation sessions, press conferences, and approved “actions.” The 40,000+ attendees from nation-states, non-profits, universities, and, yes, the fossil fuel industry, came together for two intense weeks with the same goal—to leave with a global agreement to fight climate change, helped along by the four tons of free trade chocolate one environmental group distributed throughout the venue.

But Paris produced what 20 previous conferences did not—a global agreement which seems set up for success. The major takeaway from COP21 is the coalescing around 1.5 degrees C of warming, rather than 2 degrees, providing climate finance to vulnerable countries, and a process to evaluate and ratchet up emissions reduction pledges.

The theme of ending the reign of fossil fuels was central, from divestment actions to the planning for a global shutdown of fossil fuel infrastructure in May 2016. Keeping 80% of current fossil fuel reserves in the ground is essential if we’re going to come anywhere near meeting COP21 targets. In Connecticut, the battle is over the build-out of natural gas infrastructure, which will lock us into a fossil-dependent future for years to come. And on the national scale, ending fossil fuel subsidies must be a major priority—coal, in particular, wouldn’t be a viable choice without taxpayer dollars propping it up.

So we leave Paris with a lot of work left to do, but with knowledge of what lies before us. For me, the biggest victory from COP21 are the relationships I formed with activists from Brazil to Switzerland. President Obama called the Paris Agreement the “best chance we have” to save the planet. I disagree. The international process has been happening nearly as long as I’ve been alive, and in that time we’ve seen global emissions rise by 60%. We can’t wait on our governments anymore. The true hope lies with the people. We’re ready.

People Against Injustice welcoming newcomers to projects

by Jane Mills, PAI

People Against Injustice is currently involved in several projects and newcomers are welcome to join us in our efforts.

  • On November 19, PAI hosted Sen. Gary Winfield to discuss upcoming justice-related legislative initiatives. Sen. Winfield reviewed the package of justice reforms just signed into law. Going forward, a promising political climate appears to exist for slashing the prison population; raising the maximum age of juveniles to 20 (from 18); and bail reform, which would attempt to eliminate or curtail cash bail. PAI supports these efforts and will be focusing attention on the design of the Public Defenders system in Connecticut as well as how to boost its resources. PAI is also examining some problems that may be addressed by policy or rule changes rather than legislative reform, such as obstacles faced by minors attempting to visit family members in Whalley Avenue jail, and several rules and practices in the state courts in New Haven related to defendants’ rights.
  • PAI’s NHPD Freedom of Information request: PAI has uploaded dozens of New Haven Police General Orders and procedures to the Internet in order to make these documents available to the public. They are the result of a Freedom of Information request that PAI submitted in October. PAI will be submitting a second request for confirmation of completeness, as the documents, though numerous, do not appear to be a complete set. The public can access, download and even comment on the data here http://tinyurl.com/PAI-NHPDdocs.
  • Upcoming event: In the coming weeks, PAI will be announcing an event tentatively set for late January. To receive announcements, check our Facebook page periodically for an update, or send us your e-mail address. Our url is http://www.facebook.com/PeopleAgainstInjustice. PAI can be reached at peopleagainstinjustice@riseup.net.

City of New Haven Board & Commission Membership

by Aaron Good, New Haven Votes Coalition

The City of New Haven has 45 different Boards and Commissions which are filled by over 300 New Haven citizens from all neighborhoods and all walks of life who volunteer to serve the city. These posts range from such highly visible assignments as the Board of Education, the Housing Authority of New Haven and the Police Board to many less visible, but equally vital posts such as the Commission on Disabilities, the Historic District Commission, and the New Haven Democracy Fund. The City is always looking for people to serve in these important volunteer posts. While there is generally no pay, the opportunity for civic engagement can be tremendously rewarding.

Please take time to learn more about the various Boards and Commissions. If you find one that interests you, contact the chairperson and attend one of its meetings.

If you decide that you are interested in serving, you can fill out the application (contact City Hall or www.newhavenvotes.org) and mail it to City Hall (Mayor’s Office, 165 Church St., New Haven CT 06510). You can either express your interest in one or more specific appointments, or the Mayor’s Office can identify an appropriate choice for you based on the information provided in your application. CURRENT LIST OF BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS See: http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Government/pdfs/Commissions.pdf.

Fast Against Fracking

by Melinda Tuhus, environmental activist and journalist

The bad news is that fracked gas pipelines exist and more are proposed all over the country. The good news is the same, meaning the front lines of the battle are everywhere, involving thousands of people – property owners, students, climate activists. Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) was born in July 2014 when a group sat in and was arrested in D.C. at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a quasi-governmental agency (funded by the industries that it regulates) that approves gas infrastructure, including interstate pipelines, storage facilities, compressor stations and super-high polluting liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. We have done three multi-day actions at FERC in the past year. From September 8-25, a dozen members of BXE conducted an 18-day, water-only fast in front of FERC headquarters, demanding No New Permits.

Why a fast? Despite opponents attending meetings, speaking at public hearings, filing comments on dockets of proposed pipelines, carrying out civil disobedience in which hundreds of people have been arrested both at FERC and at various sites – all without having much of an impact – members of BXE determined that a fast would be a different kind of action and could reach the hearts of people in a way these other actions hadn’t. We distributed thousands of handouts and talked to hundreds of people, including FERC employees and even the chairman of the Commission.

I provided logistical support for the fast, including driving the van, writing flyers and contacting the media. We all stayed together at night at a D.C. church. And we didn’t just sit around at FERC – we were very active in supporting other issues and events, like the culmination of the NAACP’s Journey for Justice from Selma to D.C.; a major press conference to support Bernie Sanders’s Keep It in the Ground bill in the Senate to end permitting for fossil fuel extraction on public lands; a climate-conscious Yom Kippur service at the Lincoln Memorial and events related to Pope Francis’s visit to D.C.

No, FERC didn’t stop issuing permits – yet. But we feel we changed the tone of the conversation, solidified our commitment to stopping fracked gas and its infrastructure, and mutually expanded our connections with many other groups like Black Lives Matter, faith-based communities, and climate justice workers around the country.

For more information about BXE or groups in CT working on this issue, email me at Melinda.tuhus2@gmail.com.

Capitalism vs. the Climate vs. Spectra Energy

by Dan Fischer, Capitalism vs. the Climate

Early in the morning of Nov. 16, Bernardo McLaughlin of Capitalism vs. the Climate (CvC) obstructed the start of the work for Spectra Energy, locking himself to equipment at a compressor station in Chaplin, CT that Spectra is expanding as part of a massive expansion of fracked gas pipeline infrastructure. Police removed and arrested McLaughlin after he had disrupted construction for nearly three hours.

“I placed my body here because we’re out of options. The political class has decided they can survive climate catastrophe and written the rest of us off as acceptable losses. Nobody is coming to save us. Our only hope is organized grassroots power and direct action,” said McLaughlin.

Spectra’s billion-dollar “AIM Project” creates an incentive for increased fracking, a dangerous method of extracting methane gas from shale fields. Spectra plans to build part of the pipeline, which carries highly-flammable gas, just one hundred feet from New York state’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, running the risk of catastrophic injury to tens of thousands of people. The engineer Paul Blanch has said that a disaster at this part of the pipeline could cause the release of more radioactive materials than were released in Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Federal Regulatory Commission has said that the Chaplin area construction would directly impact Mansfield Hollow State Park, twelve streams, two wetlands and habitat for state-protected species.

So far, activists have been arrested 66 times in the campaign against Spectra’s pipeline expansion. The actions have had an impact. Last week, dozens willing to risk arrest in West Roxbury, MA, arrived at a vacant construction site. Spectra had abruptly decided to pause construction in West Roxbury until the spring. Meanwhile, Spectra has been seeking $30,000 in damages from three protesters who nonviolently blocked construction in Burrillville, RI, in September. Activists see Spectra’s extreme responses as a scare tactic to deter future demonstrations and as an acknowledgment that the ongoing blockades and lock-downs are effectively disrupting the company’s construction plans.

You can help out with Bernardo’s legal costs at http://bit.ly/CVC-Action.

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