Director of Christian Community Action Praises work-ready program STRIVE

Excerpts from Rev. Grubb’s speech at recent STRIVE (a work-ready program) Graduation, of which three CCA residents took part.

I’m here because I believe in the opportunity that all of us have to grow, to develop, to find purpose, to try new things, to be excited about life and to think about that better future. Each and every day, all of us make choices—large ones and small ones. Small ones like “What am I going to have for breakfast?” Large ones, “Ok. I’m going someplace special today so I need to dress up.” Significant choices and even insignificant choices. Life-changing and life-sustain-ing. Sometimes, those choices are temporary—like a living situation—and sometimes they are permanent. Sometimes, the choices are “the best under the circumstances.” Sometimes positive. And sometimes, not so positive. We even make choices that are based on selfishness. And sometimes, particularly parents, make choices that are selfless, for the betterment of their children, their growth and development, opportunities and their best future.

left to right: Sandra Plessinger, Dir. of Workforce Development CRI; Dawn Staton, STRIVE Trainer CRI; Tirra Jones, Graduate; Wanda Lary, Sr. VP of Workforce Development CRI; Rev. Bonita Grubbs

Aspirations—all of us have them. But unless they move to action, they are simply things in the cloud. Our choices are [not only] to live…but to be alive. You know what it means to feel alive—you’ve got purpose and meaning…To work and to prepare for work—in many ways that is what the STRIVE Program has attempted to do and will continue to do.

To be a person of hope even in the midst of challenges. Because all of us have our ups and downs in life. But, to hold on to that hope is critical to taking any future step, whatever that step may be, especially one that is in a positive direction. To play for fun…but also, to play to win—that takes determination. To work to win. That requires aspiration—you gotta want it. If there’s something right in front of you that you really want and it’s yours to possess, the only required [thing] is the action to receive that which is in front of you.

And all of the graduates today and graduates of STRIVE in the past—who have been able to make it through to the end—had a plan, had a purpose, had a desire, and yes, were encouraged to take the step, knowing full well that you are not walking this road alone. The evidence for me is here today.

Local Bus Riders Express Frustration with Return of Bus Fares

by Megan Vaz and Yash Roy, Yale Daily News, April 6, 2023

Connecticut buses bore a new message for riders this weekend: “Fares restart April 1.” After almost one year of free public buses across the state due to a surge in oil prices and record-high costs of living, travelers across the state had to resume paying fares for buses on Saturday. Connecticut legislation to extend free public bus fares stalled as New Haven State Rep. Roland Lemar, who co-chairs the state legislature’s transportation committee, argued the state did not have enough funding to pay for the program.

Proponents of extending the state’s free public bus system have argued that the program helped alleviate cost-of-living worries as Connecticut residents have faced inflation of six to eight percent, an average rent increase of roughly 20 percent and stagnating wages. Moreover, local bus riders have expressed frustration over the state’s decision to deprioritize accessibility while managing one of its largest budget reserves in state history.

“Statistically, this also translates to disproportionately punishing poor people, women, young people, seniors, and Black and brown people,” said local bus rider Stasia Brew-Kaczynski. “We need authority figures to stop thinking with car-brains and start looking for every opportunity to reward and incentivize people moving without private cars and trucks.”

Now that the fare-free program has expired, most travelers must pay $6.40 for an All-day 2 Zones pass, with prices increasing for each additional zone. Riders may also purchase 31-day passes, which range from $108.80 to $204 based on the traveling zone range…

According to the nonprofit Datahaven’s 2023 Community Wellbeing Index for the greater New Haven area, about 34 percent of local adults making under $30,000 per year experience “transportation insecurity” without reliable access to a vehicle. Black and Latino households are far more likely to lack access to a personal vehicle, especially in those without any employed adults.

Some bus riders told the News that they are experiencing homelessness and heavily relied on the fare-free program for access to food, job opportunities and medical appointments.

King Latif Manns, an unhoused person who rode the bus regularly before fares were announced, told the News that he thinks fares will hurt those of lower socioeconomic classes most. Latif Manns has stopped riding the bus since the change.

“I feel they should think about how many people they were helping and how many people suffer at the fact that the buses started faring people,” Latif Manns said. “It’s tax money, but also, we, the people, are the taxpayers.”

[Article can be read in its entirety at]

Tax Day Lesson Takes On Austerity

by Laura Glesby, New Haven Independent, April 18, 2023

Connecticut is the wealthiest state in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Wilbur Cross junior Dave John Cruz-Bustamante told a crowd of educators gathered across the street from their school. “But you wouldn’t know that from looking at our desks.”

On Tax Day Tuesday afternoon, Cruz-Bustamante joined 50 educators and allies at a rally to call on the state to tax the rich — and pour more funding into public education. The rally featured unions representing New Haven teachers (New Haven Federation of Teachers, or NHFT), paraprofessional educators (AFSCME Local 3429), and community and state college professors (AFT Local 1942 and SEIU Local 1973) — all of whom called for the state to address aging facilities, low wages, and rising tuition across public education institutions in the state.

Ahead of the deadline to file taxes, ​“I scraped together my pennies to pay what I owed,” said Eric Maroney, a Gateway Community College English professor and union leader, as attendees began to gather. ​“I don’t mind paying my share, but I’d like it go to toward helping people in my community.”…
NHFT President Leslie Blatteau and 4C’s faculty union President Seth Freeman offered a Tax Day ​“lesson” to rally supporters.

They started with two vocabulary words: ​“austerity,” or severe restraint in government spending, and ​“equity,” or fair and just opportunities. After Blatteau and Freeman defined the terms, the speakers who followed illustrated their own experiences of what austerity looks like.

For Cruz-Bustamante, an elected student representative on the Board of Education, ​“austerity” means leaky roofs and broken bathroom locks in the Wilbur Cross building.

For Wilbur Cross teacher and counselor Mia Comulada, it means overcrowded classrooms and growing teacher burnout.

For paras [paraprofessional educators] union President Hyclis Williams, austerity means ​“low-wage exploitation” of her colleagues, many of whom live below the federal poverty line….

At Wilbur Cross, Comulada said, an influx of immigrants from Central America and the Middle East has led to more English language learners and more students recovering from stress and trauma.

Meanwhile, at Southern, Bonjo described, more than half of students are people of color, many are parents, and a large number are the first in their families to attend college. And at Gateway, ​“many of our students work two, three jobs,” said Maroney….

In a state as wealthy as Connecticut, Cruz-Bustamante said, ​“We deserve schools that look like palaces.”

[Article can be read in its entirety at]

Community-Unity Page – Our Readers’ Voices

The PAR Newsletter has always seen as its mission the bringing together of activists by sharing reports of the events and ongoing work of groups to build a progressive community.

We recognize that within activist circles and the broader population, many complex issues can sometimes divide us and require ongoing dialogue.

In this spirit we would like to present a new feature in the PAR newsletter that will act as a place to express differing views on controversial issues.

We would like this to be a page where groups and individuals focus specifically on their own positions on these issues, points of possible unity with others, and not as a place to criticize other groups or individuals with whom they disagree.

How are YOU analyzing various current events? Articles should be between 200 and 350 words and sent to [email protected]. Discussions of such issues may help people find common ground and programmatic unity to further the causes dear to our hearts or at least clarify differences.

We hope our readers will take up this offer and present their analyses in our newsletter. The PAR Planning Committee looks forward to providing a forum for all to sort out controversial issues and build a stronger progressive community.

Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide Holds Press Conference; Members Testify at Public Hearing Feb. 27

by Joan Cavanagh, Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide

Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide (PAMAS) held a press conference at the Legislative Office Building on Feb. 27, just before a public hearing before the Public Health Committee to discuss this year’s assisted suicide bill, SB 1076. Co-sponsored by Second Thoughts Connecticut, speakers included Cathy Ludlum, a Second Thoughts leader; Dr. Diane Meier, Director Emerita and Strategic Advisor at the Center to Advance Palliative Care and Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and PAMAS members Nancy Alisberg, Elaine Kolb, and Joan Cavanagh. (You can watch the press conference at, thanks to Stanley Heller, who videotaped it.)

Six PAMAS members also testified against the bill at the public hearing, including Alisberg and Cavanagh as well as Deborah Elkin, Paula Panzarella, Monica McGovern, and Frank Panzarella.

The Public Health Committee, unfortunately, passed the bill at a meeting where none of the legislators who spoke even mentioned the many objections raised not only by PAMAS but also by disability justice activists. We expect that it will now be taken up by the Judiciary Committee. Please, write to members of that committee immediately and let them know that you oppose it, even if you are not in their district.

(The entire list of members can be found at If you can’t write to all of them, at least be sure to write to your own representatives and senators.

For more info, email [email protected].

Gateway Protesters To State: Don’t Hike Our Tuition

by Yash Roy, New Haven Independent, Jan. 27, 2023

Gateway Community College student and Board of Regents student representative Alina Wheeler lives on the edge — of affording to be able to stay in school, of being “just poor enough” to have her healthcare covered as she works towards graduating.

She and fellow community college students in similarly pre-carious spots are now worried they might not be able to finish out their educations thanks to a potential increase in tuition that could be coming down the pike now that the CT State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents has announced plans to raise tuition at state universities by 3 percent.

Wheeler and roughly 50 students, professors, high school teachers, community members and SEIU union organizers voiced those fears Thursday night [Jan. 26] during a protest outside of Gateway Community College’s campus downtown on Church Street.

They called on the Board of Regents to stop tuition hikes, and they criticized state government for failing to tax its wealthiest residents fairly, all while many students of color and from marginalized backgrounds struggle to attend college. The protesters also called for the state to put together a long-term plan to make state colleges free and increase investment in public education…

Adilene Rodriguez, a recent graduate of Hillhouse High School, spoke [at the protest]. Rodriguez said she hopes to study criminology. She said she’ll likely have to go to work instead. As an immigrant, she said she is not eligible for federal financial aid. She said both of her parents work two jobs and 80-hour weeks.

“I don’t even know if I want to go to college anymore even though I’ve dreamed of studying criminology since I came here from Mexico,” Rodriguez said. “My family just can’t afford it and I have younger siblings who also want to go to college.”

Rodriguez called on the state to lower costs and make education accessible to students like her.

[Article can be read in its entirety at]

Nonprofit Organization Needs Help to Continue

Are you interested in helping rebuild the board of a New Haven-based 501(c)(3) that has an activist history of working with and helping a variety of local progressive groups? Five or more people are needed who are willing to commit to monthly meetings, take on organizational and administrative tasks (i.e., prepare agendas, chair meetings, plan activities, etc.), review bylaws and prepare for membership meetings to elect board members. Individuals and organizational representatives welcome – one representative per organization. Interested? Reply by Wednesday, March 1. For more information, call Paula at 203-562-2798.

Friends of Kensington Playground

by Jane Comins, FKP

Photo: Jane Comins

Pumpkin Festival: Saturday, October 29 was a great day in Kensington Playground, as we hosted our Pumpkin Festival. Kensington Playground was filled with kids and families enjoying the warm weather and colorful trees. Kids laughed and smiled as they decorated free pumpkins and played Pumpkin Balloon Pop for treats. Everyone enjoyed free ci-der and donuts, took festive pictures in front of the deco-rated splash pad, and shopped for free clothing at Renee’s Closet.

Holiday Festival: We are planning our Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting event in Kensington Playground on Saturday, December 10, 3-5 p.m. (Rain date: Sunday, December 11). We hope to have a holiday tree with festive lights, ornament making for the kids, singing, and hot chocolate and cookies. We welcome donations and need volunteers for this event.

Park Proposal: Thanks to everyone who came out to support us at the Parks Commission meeting in October. Our Park Proposal, which asks the City to commit to the idea that every neighborhood should have at least one public play-ground that has a playscape, splash pad and trees, was on the agenda. After a brief discussion the proposal was tabled, until we can provide more information. We expect to do so at the January 18th meeting, and will keep you updated, so that you can join us at the meeting in a show of support and solidarity.

Lawsuit: Our lawsuit continues. Currently, we are in the discovery phase of the trial. No trial date has been set. We recently received an invoice for $1,995. We paid $1,000 of that, but still owe our lawyer $995.

We hope that you will make a donation to legal costs now to keep our work moving forward, as we expect another legal bill soon. All donations will be used towards legal expenses, unless you specify that your donation is to be used for an event. We are now a 501(c)(3), so all donations are tax deductible.

Our website is

An Evening with Nonviolent Strategist, Activist and Storyteller, George Lakey 

From training students for Mississippi Freedom Summer to victories over the banks funding climate destruction a half-century later, George has spent his life fighting for peace, civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, labor justice and the environment. He shares serious stories with great humor and love, and clearly imparts the lessons learned. 

George will be speaking (in person and virtually) on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. about his new memoir, Dancing with History, at the Unitarian Society of New Haven, 700 Hartford Turnpike, Hamden. 

The PAR Mission: To inform the greater New Haven community about the activities of many progressive groups, so that people may learn about them and become involved in discussions and actions on issues for the common good, such as peace, health, racial equity, justice, clean energy and the environment. Refreshments and book signing after the talk. Bring cash or check to pay for books. To register, please email [email protected]

Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide

Based in Connecticut, we oppose medical assisted suicide from the perspective of disability justice and human rights. Medical assisted suicide is a threat to the poor, disabled, people of color and the elderly. These are the people who now are marginalized and devalued in the system of healthcare as we know it today. They stand the greatest danger of being further victimized by medical assisted suicide.

Currently, one’s finances and insurance coverage determine the help that one receives, whether for medical treatments, mental health support, assistive equipment, personal care attendants, a secure living situation, improved palliative care, pain management, enhanced hospice care, etc. Members of Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide have seen firsthand the insistence with which some in the medical community deem people not worthy of treatment because there would “only be another hospital admission down the road,” or “they have no quality of life” because they are disabled or elderly. We have heard medical people try to inflict guilt on patients for staying alive, implying, or stating directly, that they should “think of how much they’re making their families suffer” by continuing treatments and “dragging out the inevitable.”

Supporters of medical assisted suicide often claim that their only opposition comes from the ultraconservative “religious fringe.” This is simply wrong. As progressives, we recognize that this is a human justice issue that lies at the heart of what kind of society we want to live in.

Progressives Against Medical Assisted Suicide supports LGBTQIA people’s rights and women’s reproductive rights. If you also believe in fighting for the human, civil and economic rights of LGBTQIA people and for reproductive justice, organize with us in ending euthanasia and medical assisted suicide where they exist, and in preventing their legalization elsewhere.

Let us share information and build a progressive, disability justice and human rights-based movement to end medical assisted suicide and euthanasia. Email us at: [email protected].

A Panther Passes On

by Paul Bass, New Haven Independent, Sept. 21, 2022

The state tried to frame George Edwards and lock him up for life. His fellow revolutionaries tortured him and tried to kill him. They didn’t know whom they were messing with.

He survived — and kept at his Black Panther mission for another half century long after generations of fellow fighters left the theater.

George Edwards at a 2016 Hip-Hop Conference. Photo David Yaffe-Bellany

It was kidney cancer that finally claimed the life of George Edwards. He died late last Friday in Connecticut Hospice at the age of 85. Until his final months, he remained one of New Haven’s most visible and engaging voices, challenging power and supporting grassroots social justice crusades.

Perhaps the most spied-on and messed-with political activist in New Haven history, he combined theatrical training with an unshatterable suspicion of government power to speak out wherever people gathered: on city buses, at library gatherings, at outdoor protests. You may or may not have agreed with his assertions about imperial power, CIA connections to Yale, black helicopters or the moon landing. It was impossible not to listen. Or to appreciate the man speaking.

Edwards also possessed a gentleness and kindness that endeared him to people whether or not they shared his intense convictions.

“He lived a full life,” said his daughter, Elizabeth Dickerson, who had a Sunday pancake breakfast date with her dad at the Hamden IHOP in his later years. …

Edwards grew up in Goldsboro, N.C., where he engaged in his first protests with fellow high school students demanding that officials comply with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board desegregation ruling.

He worked on B52 bombers as an engineer for the U.S Air Force from 1955 through 1961, when he was ceremoniously removed for his role in antimilitarism protests. He later said a recording of a speech by Malcolm X had made him question his service to the United States: ​“I had a serious confrontation with history, politics, racism. I was becoming conscious of the world. This man had shown a light to the darkness of my brain.”

Yale School of Drama brought Edwards to New Haven, where he became a stalwart performer in the local Black Arts Movement. When the national Black Panthers opened a chapter here in 1968, Edwards was one of its first members. Local cops and the FBI under its deadly COINTEL-PRO spying-and-disruption initiative were already keeping tabs on him. He appeared on the FBI ​“Agitator Index’ and ​“Rabble Rouser Index.” His FBI file #124 – 310G would expand to 1,000 pages. It revealed how, if Edwards went to the store for a quart of milk, an agent made sure to follow.

[Article can be read in its entirety, with videos at

See also 1992 NYT interview at]

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