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.

Towards a New Paradigm of Creative Revolution — Part One

by Owen Charles, environmental, peace and community activist

We are in a time of great innovation, some say, mostly speaking of computer technology, “AI,” microparticle physics, genetic science, and other man-made detritus.

We are in a time of great crisis, meanwhile, as we soak in a toxic environment and begin to experience looming climate destruction borne of man-made garbage–hydrocarbons, plastics, pesticides, and other technologies.

It is time to recognize that we are in a downward spiral. As a species, we are clearly incapable. That is why it is up to SOME of us to recognize we are in a downward spiral… and do something about it.

No, not come up with some technological solution or grand design that will “save the world” but independent, creative, revolutionary ways of disconnecting from and unplugging from the destructive dystopia around us, so that we may build a new future. Tapping into our own creative revolutions, inviting and engaging, and welcoming those around us.

Is this a revolutionary idea? – YES and NO. YES, in that it is the answer towards upending the Existing Order (Capitalism, carnism, consumerism, etc.) that will likely implode as destructive forces it has unleashed grows in Tsunami fashion and drowns (most of) us all.

NO, in that it is already late to be getting to the party. Revolutionary work has started all around. Not cults of 150-year-old revolutionists or other political goings-on…. But, in the almost anonymous goings-on of growing autonomous movements — Bioregionalism groups, independent local movements of people living off the grid, tiny houses, living in vans & other vehicles, autonomous agricultural innovations, “gig economy” pursuits, bartering and new economies, and in the rise of cooperatives, collectives, and back-to-earth communalism–it is no longer enough to say “No”! In fact, it is counter-productive to spend much time doing this–opposing the facets and faults that in aggregate comprise the Existing Order.

While Bob Marley was right that “Total destruction is the only solution (no one can stop them now),” there will not be a turning point among humans to turn around the destruction of the planet (and each other) through our out-of-control hydrocarbonism, consumerism, and Capitalism… not until after climate destruction has so disrupted our lives that the great majority live in constant struggle to survive amidst the new environment of the planet. We ARE beyond… beyond the point of no return. Thus, we don’t say NO… We don’t say INCREMENTALISM. Thus, we say YES!

The clear answer for a monumental transition lies before us… lies in our embracing this, and saying “YES”.

Yes, to new paradigm.

Yes, to new ideas, ways of living, ways of helping each other, ways of creating anew.

Yes, to positive action.

Yes, to communes- bounding together to create new economies, new healthcare and educational possibilities, new ways of moving forward from where we are now.

And in this “new” paradigm there certainly may be echoes of the past… indigenous and ancient ways of basic, communitarian existence in a more balanced harmony with each other and with nature…

You can look at it as saying NO to the toxic culture and capitalism, and war, and… BUT it is important not to look at it this way and to instead approach it as SAYING YES.

Yes, first off to each other.

We need to unleash ourselves from the paradigm of individualism and that it is a dog-eat-dog world… and instead embrace that we are all IN THIS TOGETHER. This is one of the first rules used to sublimate us, is the rule of “divide and conquer”.

Thus fighting each other is abandoned as a mode of revolution, and in fact is Counter-revolutionary. Let’s continue to look around and find and support those who represent a new paradigm hidden in plain sight all around us!

We say YES to each other in the mode of improvisational group creation… “YES, And” … Your idea AND mine… “BOTH AND” (not Either / Or)… this way we do not tear ourselves apart and tear each other down, but we BUILD TOGETHER new ways, new organizations, new creative revolutions.

YES to cooperatives, YES to collectives, YES to unplugging and working, YES to more DOING and less TALKING, YES to CREATING, YES TO BIOREGIONALISM, YES to MUNICIPALISM, YES to YES to YES to YES to YES.

YES to down-sizing, YES to living more ruggedly with less, YES to helping others to do so (not shaming them), YES to creating ways to communicate independently YES to BEING the CHANGE we want to see. YES to worrying less about fear, division, disagreement, and looming destruction, and YES to focusing more on creative revolution to create the new ways of living that sustain us, save us, inspire us, give us some hope, some unity, and rebuild our interior and human goodness from the first step of the first individual, in a chain that has the potential to be unending, and free us from the chains of our dystopia.

Please reach out to us by joining our Facebook group @shorelinegreenparty or contacting me! Owen Charles at owencharles2003@yahoo.com

“Sober” Houses Need to Be Regulated and Held Accountable

Holly Hackett, Community Advocate, Member of Coalition for People

My life has been impacted immensely by substance use disorder. Has yours? The statistics say yes, that 1 in 3 people know someone with substance use disorder, a chronic and debilitating brain condition. There are approximately 2.1 million people (and growing) in the U.S. suffering from this condition but only 1 in 9 seek treatment, usually due to the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction. These untreated traumas or mental health issues that lead to the person self-medicating can also lead to other health issues, criminal activity and unfortunately, deaths of despair. Every 11 minutes someone dies from an overdose and half are in private homes. In doing my research, I’ve concluded that a lot of these deaths at private homes have occurred in so-called “sober” houses.

My love Tom passed away just 20 days shy of his 39th birthday of liver failure after being in a “sober” house for about 3-4 months. I’m trying to bring awareness to these illegitimate, unsafe, fly-by-night houses that anyone can start, where MANY people across the country struggling with substance use disorder have died.

The cost to live in these houses can range from $700 to $10,000 a month and may not include food, cable TV or linens. In Connecticut there is Public Act No 18-171, but by using simple verbiage these houses are absolved and no one seems to want to enforce said act.

I’m also discouraged that these managers and/or owners of these “sober” houses aren’t held criminally liable if someone dies of an overdose at the house or perhaps drinks and drives and gets into an accident. I’d like to gather everyone together who has been affected by this disorder to stand together, work together, and find a way to let our local, state and federal legislators know these houses are UNACCEPTABLE and MORE needs to be done. We need to protect the vulnerable communities of people with mental health and substance use disorders. The process of Tom dying was long, and at times extremely physically and emotionally painful for him, but his parents suffered through emotional turmoil that cannot even be put into words!

I am hoping PAR readers will want to join me in working on this. Please contact me via email at hollyh1133@gmail.com.

Happy May Day! Continue the Struggle for Justice!

by the PAR Planning Committee

Since the nationwide strike for the 8-hour workday in 1886, the first of May has become a historic day for the struggles of working people, and for over a hundred years May 1 has been celebrated as International Workers’ Day. Locally, in 1970, the May Day protests on the New Haven Green demanded freedom for Bobby Seale, justice for the Black Panthers, and the end of the Vietnam War. Starting in 1987 and continuing for thirty years on the Green, the annual May Day celebration each year brought together dozens of organizations to promote their work for labor rights, peace, human rights, and economic rights to the broader New Haven community. And since 2006, city-wide marches for immigrants’ rights are held on May 1. Peace, racism, police brutality, union struggles, fair wages, anti-war, immigration, a safe environment, criminal justice issues, labor history, welfare rights organizing, the right to healthcare — these are some of the struggles and issues in the celebration of international solidarity.

April was a month full of upsurge. From April 11-21, Stop & Shop workers from Connecticut, Rhode Island and

Massachusetts (31,000 workers) were on strike. The union considers the new contract a victory, preserving healthcare and retirement benefits and providing wage increases. The next strike in Connecticut will be unionized workers in nursing homes. They are scheduled to strike on May 1.

For days there have been massive protests and marches in New Haven and Hamden condemning the thoroughly unjustified Hamden and Yale police shooting in New Haven of two African-Americans in their early twenties on April 16. Thankfully, Stephanie Washington is recovering from her bullet wounds, and Paul Witherspoon was not hit. Video from the police body cameras has not yet been released. As of this writing, people will gather at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 6 at the Hamden Town Hall for the Legislative Council Meeting. We urge our readers to join in the many rallies for justice around these and other issues and be inspired by the many people at the forefront of these struggles for their lives and their livelihoods.

Help Push New Health Care Choices This Session!

by Protect Our Care Connecticut

From Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut:

The race is on to offer Connecticut small businesses and individuals new quality health insurance coverage they can afford. Will you help us get over the finish line?

Act Now! Call Governor Lamont at 800-406-1527 and let him know that you need him to support small businesses and individuals seeking better health insurance choices. Ask him to support House Bill 7267/SB 134. Make the call now!

BACKGROUND: Groundbreaking legislation to open up new health insurance choices, built upon the health coverage state employees and legislators receive, could pass in the next six weeks. Small businesses are the major source of job growth in our state, employing over 700,000 people. They struggle to afford health coverage for their workers, facing double-digit increases year after year. They deserve better options for their employees, not health plans that only pay for care after people spend thousands of dollars on co-pays and deductibles.

Individuals who buy insurance on their own have fewer and worse insurance choices. The high deductibles they face are a barrier to using their coverage to address worrying symptoms or to help them stay healthy. A new insurance choice built upon the state plan, sometimes called a “public option,” would mean small businesses and individuals could benefit from the negotiating power of the largest health plan in the state.

Save the Date – Wed. May 1 – Health Care Action Day Join us at the state Capitol to tell legislators – It’s Time to Act on Health Care!

10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave., Hartford. We will start with an issues briefing (location to be determined) and then meet with legislators. We are working in partnership with the Women’s Health Lobby Day. Issues briefing will also include updates on major women’s health issues.

Protect Our Care CT priority bills/issues:

*Protect Medicaid/HUSKY from cuts
*Establish public health insurance options for small businesses/nonprofits and individuals buying on the private market (HB 7267; SB 134)
*Bring down the price of prescription drugs (HB 7174).

See Resources page of www.protectourcarect.org for information on POCCT bills.

Is Your PAR Subscription About to Run Out?

by PAR Planning Committee

The Progressive Action Roundtable newsletter publishes from September through June. Subscriptions from many of our readers will expire with the June issue.

We hope you enjoy your subscription and value the PAR newsletter as a community resource. To see if your subscription is due for renewal, please look at your address label. If “201906” is printed on the label to the right of your name, your subscription ends next month. Please send in $13 for 10 issues (Sept. 2019-June 2020) so that you can continue to read about what local organizations are doing and you can submit articles about your own organization.

The Progressive Action Roundtable was started in January 1993. After several months, this community Newsletter became the main activity of PAR, giving New Haven area organizations an opportunity for networking and for advertising their activities.

We hope to hear from you.

Liberty Community Services at New Haven Libraries

Liberty Community Services offers one-on-one consulta-tions at NHFPLs for those with basic needs (jobs, food, shelter, and health and wellness issues).
Ives Main Library, 133 Elm Street
* Mondays to Fridays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
* Saturdays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Fair Haven Branch Library, 182 Grand Avenue
* Thursdays, 5-7 p.m. * Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Wilson Branch Library, 303 Washington Avenue
* Tuesdays, 5-7 p.m *Saturdays, April 13, 27, 10 a.m.-1p.m.

Coalition For People Annual Meeting, April 17

The annual meeting of the Greater New Haven Coalition For People will be on Wednesday, April 17, from 4:45-7:30 p.m. in the Program Room, lower level of the New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm St., New Haven.

Coalition For People through the years

Coalition For People led the successful campaign to have the downtown bus stops restored around the New Haven Green; demanded the hospitals adhere to the Hill-Burton Act and provide free health care to people who could not afford it; promoted universal, comprehensive single-payer health care; organized in neighborhoods to curb drug dealing and violence; won guarantees of jobs for New Haven residents at projects and businesses receiving city assistance; and worked with many other organizations in the New Haven area on issues of justice, racism, welfare rights, peace and the environment.

This past year we have taken on such issues as New Haven’s lack of affordable housing, the rights of the homeless, “hospital-dumping” of patients to the street who have no where to go after they are discharged from the hospital, lack of disability access to public places, and development of a program to provide resources for people with behavioral issues who would otherwise be put through the court system for creating a disturbance or other minor infractions or misdemeanors.

We are honored that our guest speaker will be Rev. Bonita Grubbs, Executive Director of Christian Community Action. Music will be performed by Flint Ladder. Our meeting and light dinner are free.
We invite you to become a member of Coalition For People and join our board. Annual dues are $5. Only members are eligible to vote during the business portion of the meeting.

RSVP is necessary. Please call (203) 468-2541, or e-mail coalitionforpeople@hotmail.com.

Why Run for Mayor? by Wendy Hamilton

Wendy Hamilton, NH homeless advocate and mayoral candidate

PAR readers may remember the article Wendy wrote in the Feb. 2018 issue of PAR about homelessness and Mark Cochran. Mark died shortly after Yale New Haven Hospital discharged him in winter with no place to go. Wendy has filed the paperwork to run for mayor and has asked if we would share her concerns with our readers.

One day I just felt fed up with the chaos, the lies, the crazy spending, the near bankruptcy, the greed, the lack of compassion, the apathy…

Justin [Elicker] and Liam [Brennan] were sitting on the fence. I decided to commit to the research and the signature-collecting because I want to be heard at the Democratic primary debates coming this fall.

After making a list of city problems, I saw they fit into four categories–Housing, Budget, Safety, and Transportation.

Housing is no longer affordable for the masses without job security and bank loans for the working poor. The cost of living increases during years of flatline wages and a widening wealth gap. Developers and slumlords are getting all the breaks. Homelessness exists in every town and city and is growing despite what mass media says. Foreclosures and evictions are everyday occurrences.

The Budget is a runaway train growing by $100 million plus with our current mayor in office. We are in debt and near bankruptcy. The biggest contribution comes from our property taxes. Biggest expenditures are police, fire, and school systems, all of which need revamping with fair and intelligent contracts and pensions. We also have a huge yearly debt payoff. Yale, on 50% of the town land, only pays about 1/33 of the yearly take. The state offers a little better money but not enough.

Safety, which includes physical elements like crime, fire, pollution of air and water and climate change, is also a desirable feeling for the public to have and many don’t feel safe here for many reasons. Our police and firefighters require contracts to make them feel safe and appreciated. City residents require a civilian review board that can address their problems by affecting real change. We need to stop treating the homeless, the addicted, and sex workers (mostly homeless women) like criminals. We need year-round hazardous waste collection and cleaner parks that operate for the public benefit, not just the lucky few. We need to get housing quickly for those living on the street.  We all need affordable medical care.

Transportation is a city theme. We have trains, buses, major highways, bike and pedestrian trails, and a harbor. We are part of East Coast Metro which includes several huge cities.  The age of automobiles is over, but city hall hasn’t figured it out yet. 25% of us have asthma. Our air is just plain dirty. Bike travel is on the rise fortunately (I am 70 and own 2). Bus routes and schedules need to be examined and improved here. Many here can’t afford a bike or a car or a cab. Cab service is pricey and undependable here. A $40 million boathouse that took years to build on its own pier lies empty and unavailable to us even though our taxes paid for it — a colossal waste.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

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