The New Haven Debt Map: How can we reduce the burden now?

by Annie Harper, CMHC/PRCH Financial Health Project

The New Haven Debt Map is learning from New Haven residents about their debt burden and working to collectively develop local policy reforms to reduce that burden.

People are struggling with student loans, car loans and credit card debt. Many people are behind on rent and bills, or have unpaid taxes, fines, and tickets. Close to 50% of New Haven residents have delinquent debt; rates are much higher in neighborhoods of color than in white neighborhoods. People with debts in collections may have their wages, bank accounts or tax refunds attached. More than 3,000 New Haven households are behind on their UI bills. Many owe property taxes, parking tickets, or can’t afford registration. Their cars may be towed, with retrieval fees too high for some to recover their vehicles.

People also owe mortgage arrears, medical debt, online/TV retail installment loans, tax refund advances, online payday loans, rent-to-own stores, pawnshops, bank overdrafts, child support, IRS taxes, library fines, Medicaid/DOC liens, bail bonds, loans from friends and family, credit from neighbor-hood stores, loans from loan sharks……the list goes on.

The consequences of debt go beyond a person’s finances. People with debt and arrears are more than twice as likely than others to have mental and physical health problems.

We need to know more about how debt affects New Haven families. Is debt a problem? What types of debt burden people most? What can we do in the city to reduce the burden? Can we help people save to avoid going into debt in the first place, and help them repair and build their credit? What policy reforms could help, such as municipal rules around property taxes and parking tickets, or utility bills and disconnections? Could employers help workers avoid and better manage debt?

We need to hear from experts by lived experience when it comes to debt so that we fully understand the situation, and to work together to push for policy reforms that will make a difference. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact Annie Harper, at annie.harper@yale.edu or (203) 295-4143.
Annie Harper is Project Director of the Financial Health Project of CMHC/PRCH (CT Mental Health Center and Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health).

From Turtle Island to Palestine: Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance

by Shelly Altman, Jewish Voice for Peace New Haven

Jewish Voice for Peace New Haven (JVPNH) and Southern Connecticut State University Women’s and Gender Studies (SCSU-WGS) invite you to join us in October at the Palestine Museum US and at SCSU, on the land of the Quinnipiac people, to honor and celebrate indigenous peoples.

Jennifer Kreisberg — Tuscarora, North Carolina — is mother, singer, composer, producer, teacher, and activist, and comes from four generations of Seven Singing Sisters through the maternal line. She is known for fierce vocals, soaring range, and lilting, breath-taking harmonies.

Ali El-Issa — Palestinian American — is the President of the Flying Eagle Woman Fund, named in honor of his wife, Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa. Ali works on guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples across the globe. He is on the Board of the Rigoberta Menchu Túm Foundation and is a principal representative of Ms. Menchu Túm to the United Nations.

Through song and word, Jennifer and Ali will celebrate indigenous peoples on Sunday, Oct. 13, noon-1:30 p.m. at the Palestine Museum US, 1764 Litchfield Turnpike, Wood-bridge and on Monday, Oct. 14, 6-7:30 p.m. at SCSU, Engleman Hall A107, 501 Crescent St.

Indigenous peoples, Palestinian and Native American, have endured parallel attempts to destroy their cultures. Stereo-typed by European settler-colonists as savage, not worthy of occupying the land they occupy, easily relocated, dislocated, eliminated. Walls were built that divide their communities and lands, and surveillance technology has been tested against one people and then applied to the other.
One need only look at the surveillance towers built by the U.S. division of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company, tested on the Apartheid Wall in Palestine and now used to surveil the border lands of Sonora and Arizona, home to the Tohono O’odham Nation. Elbit, in November 2016, offered a system of wide-area persistent surveillance sensors to police monitoring Dakota Access pipeline opponents.

Through all of this pain, but with resilience, sumud (Arabic – steadfastness), and celebration, these indigenous peoples come together to share their culture, their art, and their stories. Join us for this special occasion.

Contact: Susan Bramhall, newhaven@jvp.org, jvpnh.org, www.southernct.edu/academics/womens-studies-program/ programs

In Memory of Caroline Bridgman-Rees and Lula White

The PAR Planning Committee mourns the passing of Caroline Bridgman-Rees (Dec. 31, 1922-Aug. 28, 2019) and Lula White (died at the age of 80 on Sept. 10, 2019), two women with deep ties to the greater New Haven peace community and the world who dedicated their lives for peace, equality and justice for all humanity.

Caroline was an NGO representative of the United Nations and member of a multitude of peace organizations — international, national and local. She was involved with the Progressive Action Roundtable right from its beginning in 1993.

Caroline’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 11:30 a.m., at the Unitarian Society of New Haven, 700 Hartford Turnpike, Hamden.

Excerpt from Lula’s obituary notice in the New Haven Register, Sept. 16, 2019

Most people knew Lula White as a retired New Haven school teacher, board member of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association and member of the PAR mailing committee. For many of us in New Haven, we didn’t realize the scope of her bravery and profound sense of justice until she told us her history of being a freedom rider.

Family members have set Lula’s memorial service for Saturday, Dec. 14. Inquiries should be directed to Lulamwhitememorialservice@gmail.com.

We cherish the friendship, wisdom and inspiration Caroline and Lula shared with us. Our condolences to the families of these two remarkable, brave women who gave so much of themselves for a better world.

We are Each A Precious Entity: The Activist Life of Caroline Bridgman-Rees

The following is an edited version from the tribute written by PJ Deak for the Unitarian Society of New Haven.

Caroline Bridgman-Rees

Caroline was born on New Year’s Eve, 1922 and grew up on Staten Island. Her father, a Yale graduate, was a history professor at NYU for 29 years. A decorated war veteran, he came home from WWI in 1918 traumatized by the horrors of war, its barbarism, death, and destruction.

As a result of her father’s experiences, Caroline became very aware of the toll and folly of war – and of the importance of working for peace. In 1945, Caroline, 22, a Phi Beta Kappa and recent graduate of Smith College, joined the Red Cross. She sailed on a ship to the Philippines where she worked with the Red Cross until 1946 when she went to Korea. Why did she do it? To see the world and “to see life with the soldiers.”

She remembered the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with horror and condemnation – a bombing that in her words “was totally against moral and international law and which began a frightful new era that threatened all life on earth.”

In the 1960s, Caroline began her teaching career at Bradford College in Massachusetts – teaching Asian History and Philosophy. Caroline became increasingly concerned about the conflict between the US and both the Vietnamese liberation forces and all of Indochina.

Caroline Bridgman-Rees, Nancy Eberg and Jim Pandaru (l-r)

She joined a number of prominent peace organizations: The American Friends Service Committee; Sane/Freeze – later known as Peace Action; The Women’s International League for Peace And Freedom; The War Resisters League; Mobilization for Survival; and because of her service in the Red Cross, Veterans Against The War.

“I felt then, as I do now, that non-violent direct action is a citizen’s responsibility when the government is committing major war crimes against humanity!”

In 1972 Caroline was one of 171 American peace leaders chosen to attend the Paris Peace Talks. Also in 1972, she was part of a team of women who traveled to India and conducted interviews with Indian women about the role of women in the world – Caroline even had the privilege to interview Ms. Ghandi. In 1973, Caroline, her husband and 10-year-old son traveled through India, Burma, Thailand, Hong Kong, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Caroline became involved with the United Nations as an NGO representative, and also was active with the Greater New Haven Peace Council. In 1991-1992 she spent a year in England giving 45 separate lectures on Nuclear Disarmament and attended an international peace conference in the Netherlands.

When the first Iraq War began, Caroline was active as the anti-war movement surged anew – seeking avenues for mediation and diplomacy rather than violence.

Caroline attended meetings to discuss and take action on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke out about the size of the US military budget, the number of US military bases around the world (over 1,000) and the pollution they are allowed to create. She wrote letters to the editor that were published in the New Haven Register and participated in the New Haven Peace Council and the Unitarian Society of New Haven Peace Task Force.

“We need community, not guns. We must create a world with love, and caring and cooperation.”

Read Caroline Bridgman-Rees’ obituary on Legacy.com.

Remembering Lula White

by Joan Cavanagh, former Archivist/Director, Greater New Haven Labor History Association (2001-2017)

Lula White poses with the Thurgood Marshall Award she received in 2016 (file photo)

Lula White poses with the Thurgood Marshall Award she received in 2016 (file)

I was with Lula White at many gatherings in 35 or so years: peace actions to oppose the endless U.S. wars; Sunday night potluck discussions; Labor History Association meetings and events; union protests at Yale; even the occasional holiday party. With Mary Johnson, she often spoke of teaching, organizing and being jailed during the teachers’ strikes in the 1970s. Her story as a youthful freedom rider in the South unfolded more slowly.

When we decided to document the history of workers at New Haven’s Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Lula and her sister, Dorothy White Johnson, both long time members of the Labor History Association Executive Board, contacted former Winchester employees, conducted interviews and borrowed artifacts for the exhibit, “Our Community at Winchester: An Elm City Story.”

After the plant closed in 2006, we transferred the files, artifacts and photographs of the workers’ union, IAM Local 609, to the office I shared with the late Nicholas Aiello, then LHA president. The plan was to inventory and preserve them. As Nick witnessed 65 boxes slowly taking over our space, he became, not unreasonably, upset. We had a heated exchange. Lula arrived just as I left to take a breath. When I returned, Lula was smiling—and so was Nick, who congratulated us for having secured custody of these important historical records. Whatever she said or did, she had, typically, transformed the situation.

At Fairfield University, where the exhibit was displayed in 2017, I introduced Lula after a short history of the project, and began asking questions. The audience, mostly students, soon took over. Lula spoke quietly and without drama about her life as the daughter of a Winchester worker, growing up in the Newhallville section of New Haven, then becoming a teacher of history and union activist. She also shared the terrifying, brave experience of being jailed in Mississippi as a young Black woman, one of hundreds of freedom riders trying to integrate the buses in 1961. In an evaluation of the session, a student wrote that she was “cool.” She had shared her hope for a future based on engaged citizenship at a moment when it was desperately needed, just following the 2017 presidential inauguration.

During my only visit to the Intensive Care Unit where Lula was confined in June, not expected to survive, I whispered to her to “Keep fighting.” It wasn’t necessary. Fight she did. Over the summer, she slowly got better. She almost made it.

Despite Lula White’s inner calm, peace and strength, it cannot have been easy being fully “woke.” May she find the joy and rest she has earned.

Excerpt from the obituary notice of the New Haven Register, Sept. 16, 2019

Ms. White was frequently jailed as a freedom rider trying to desegregate public transportation. In addition, she was arrested for striking to raise salaries for teachers, and jeered for marching to protest injustice. She was recognized by the Quinnipiac University School of Law in 2016, was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Award for her activism and commu-nity service, and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Albertus Magnus College in 2010. Lula fought the good fight.

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