Vigil Honors Lives Lost to COVID in New Haven

by Megan Fountain, Unidad Latina en Accíon

In a vigil to commemorate one year of the COVID crisis, on March 22 the immigrant organization Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), along with Black & Brown United in Action, and Hamden Action Now remembered 186 lives lost in New Haven, including two of their loved ones, Nora Garcia and Ignacia Teniza.

photo: Frank Panzarella

To the crowd of sixty people, ULA announced a Rental Relief Fund and called for an economic recovery for immigrants. ULA released a report documenting the needs of their community and the urgent demand for an economic recovery to include immigrants. Since the pandemic began, ULA has mobilized nearly a dozen car caravans to the state capitol and governor’s mansion calling for COVID relief for “essential” undocumented workers, who have been excluded from unemployment insurance and federal stimulus payments.

While US Congress has failed to provide any relief to undocumented workers, the state of Connecticut last week launched UniteCT, a $235 million rental assistance program that is open to all residents regardless of immigrant status. At the same time, the state legislature is considering Senate Bill 956, which would open Husky health insurance to immigrants. The rental assistance fund comes after ULA and partner organizations negotiated for nearly one year with the Connecticut Department of Housing and distributed $2.5 million in a pilot program.

“Today as we remember Nora and Ignacia and the 186 lives lost in our city, we will call for a new day in Connecticut, when healthcare and economic security will be a right for all of us, not just for a few of us,” said John Jairo Lugo, Community Organizing Director of ULA.  “As we mourn the dead, we must denounce the deadly racial and economic inequities in this state, and we must fight for the living by creating a recovery for all that includes undocumented workers and families.”

For more information: Megan Fountain, (203) 479-2959, megan@ulanewhaven.org.

‘Outraged Elders’ Keep RBG’s Spirit Alive

by Melinda Tuhus, New Haven Independent, March 16, 2021

Dori Dumas wanted to celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s birthday on March 15, so she pitched the idea to the other members of the core group of Outraged Elders. They showed up in single-digit windchill temperatures on the Green on Monday, paper lace collars around their necks, signs displayed around “the bench” across from the federal courthouse to signify the wisdom “the notorious RBG” dispensed in her decades on the Supreme Court.

Outraged Elders is the group of Black and white women who planned two COVID-safe Black Lives Matter rallies on the Green last summer to enable older residents who were staying home to avoid catching a deadly disease to safely express their support.

“As a group of women activists, we thought it most appropriate during Women’s History Month to honor the life and legacy of the honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg, ‘The Notorious R.B.G.’ on her birthday,” said Dumas, who is also president of the Greater New Haven chapter of the NAACP. “The bench is a reminder that we have to keep the pressure on. We have to use our power of the vote and keep pushing for laws that protect and advance equality, women’s rights and more,” she said. “The struggle continues, but the fight continues as well.”

The women used this outing to express support for many struggles, sometimes reading a relevant quote from Ginsberg. The Rev. Allie Perry promoted the efforts of Stop Solitary CT to pass the Protect Act to end solitary confinement in the state’s prisons.

Read the full article here: www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/outraged_elders_keep_rbgs_spirit_alive

We Will Miss Mike DeRosa

by David Bedell, Green Party of Connecticut

Mike DeRosa died October 16 at Hartford Hospital after battling an extended illness. Mike was a founding member of the CT Green Party, working on the Nader for President campaigns back in 1996 and 2000. Even before that, he had a history of activism; he volunteered for the Eugene McCarthy campaign of 1976 and for Barry Commoner’s Citizens Party campaign of 1980.

Together with his wife Barbara Barry, Mike organized the Hartford chapter of the CT Green Party, and he served as co-chair of the state party from 2003 to 2020. As co-chair, he drew criticism for continually running for re-election and for holding the party to a strict set of ethical principles, but he was dedicated to the survival of the party, organizing meetings month after month for years, tape recording the proceedings to ensure transparency, and speaking forcefully against proposals that he felt would be harmful to the party’s integrity. He served on several national party committees, notably the Ballot Access Committee and the Peace Committee.

From 2000 to 2018, Mike ran ten times for public office, winning as much as 11% of the vote: four times for State Senate, twice for Congress, and four times for Secretary of State. In 2009-2010, he partnered with the ACLU to spearhead a legal challenge to CT’s Citizens Election Program, which discriminates against minor party candidates.

Mike produced a weekly public affairs radio program, “New Focus Radio,” for many years at WHUS, WWUH, and WESU, interviewing political activists and analysts both locally and nationally known.

Mike’s persistence, loyalty, and commitment to democracy will be missed in Connecticut’s political circles.

Progressive Action Roundtable statement on the latest happenings of 2020

Dear PAR Subscribers:

The world has changed quite a bit since our June newsletter. The brutal murder of George Floyd exposed the ugliness of power in the hands of the police and the entrenched racism against people of color. As Black Lives Matter rallies against police brutality were joined with demands for removal of racist and oppressive historic symbols, the Columbus statue in Wooster Square was removed, and the City formed a committee to rename Columbus Academy. Black Lives Matter marches of over a thousand people blocked highways and rallied at police stations. A thousand people marched in West Haven to demand justice for Mubarak Soulemane, who was killed by a state trooper. Many hundreds demanded Yale pay millions of dollars more to New Haven to make up for so much property being tax-exempt because of Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital. Two “elder rallies” in support of Black Lives Matter were held on the Green for people wanting to make their voices heard while wearing masks and maintaining appropriate distance from others because of coronavirus. Mayor Elicker reiterated that New Haven is a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. City and town councils of New Haven, Hamden, Hartford, Windsor, West Hartford and Bloomfield declared racism a public health crisis. In addition, our work for peace and justice around the world has not stopped. Plus we are still in the midst of the pandemic! Quite a busy time!

The Progressive Action Roundtable welcomes articles from organizations around these and other issues of concern to our readers, who not only want to know what’s going on, but read about “report backs” and analyses of their various actions.

Please send in articles and calendar events for our next newsletter before Wednesday, Aug. 19 to parnewhaven@hotmail.com.

The struggle continues!

21-year New Haven Sunday Vigil Paused Until Further Notice Due to Covid-19

Ponder this: in a crisis of this magnitude, there aren’t close to enough ventilators and
other medical supplies including personal protective equipment to go around. The federal
government and the hospitals are talking about rationing health care. As always, the
elderly, poor, disabled and otherwise vulnerable are the ones whose lives will be
sacrificed first.

Yet the military manufacturers remain open, grinding away at the production of weapons
of mass destruction.

If this disturbs you, do something about it. Among other things, let your senators and
representatives know that they will not be re-elected unless they act now to ensure
production and distribution of all necessary equipment to save everyone’s life that
can be saved.

The government must act immediately:

  1. USE THE DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT TO MOBILIZE AMERICAN
    MANUFACTURERS TO SWITCH TO MAKING MEDICAL EQUIPMENT.
    2. USE THE DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY TO HELP COORDINATE
    EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF THESE SUPPLIES AND A MASS ROLL-OUT
    OF COVID-19 TESTING.

PLEASE, SPEAK OUT NOW. Call: U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy: (860) 549-8463;
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: (800) 334-5341; U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro: (203) 562-3718
TWO WAYS TO CONTACT THE PRESIDENT Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
White House Switchboard: (202) 456-1414; For email: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Always leave your name, address and phone number.
ALL OUR LIVES DEPEND ON THIS.
CONTINUE TO PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING. THINK AND ACT FOR
THE COMMUNITY.
Stay strong. We hope to see you soon.
RESIST THIS ENDLESS WAR
The New Haven Sunday Vigilers
March 2020
https://newhavensundayvigil.wordpress.com

In Memoriam, Mitzi Bowman, Anti-Nuclear Activist and Founding Member of PAR

by PAR Planning Committee

On Feb. 14, Mitzi Bowman, dedicated activist, teacher and friend of the New Haven peace community, passed on. She was an integral member of many New Haven and state-wide organizations and for many years, she, with her husband Pete Bowman, through their organization Don’t Waste Connecticut, helped vast numbers of Connecticut residents understand the dangers of nuclear power plants and radiation exposure. Mitzi wrote many articles for PAR about the work of Don’t Waste Connecticut, the necessity of clean, sustainable energy and the importance of caring for the environment.

Mitzi with Ralph Nader

Mitzi with Ralph Nader (photo: Hearst CT media)

Mitzi was a member of the PAR Planning Committee, and she and Pete created our PAR mission statement. Pete died Feb. 14, 2006. Two years later Mitzi moved to Vermont to be close to family.

Mitzi had an incredibly sharp intellect. She was a determined, fearless and compassionate activist. In 2015 she campaigned for Bernie Sanders at her nursing home, handing out flyers and talking to all the residents and visitors about why they should vote for him in the primary. She continued to give out posters of “The Radioactive Woman,” which depicted where radiation is most likely to affect the body with various cancers.

She has papers archived in Brattleboro and at the University of Massachusetts. The UMass papers can be accessed at scua.library.umass.edu/umarmot/bowman-mitzi.

We’re grateful to have known her, learned from her, worked with her, and been friends with her. Our condolences to her children Lori and Jason and Mitzi with Ralph Nader (photo: Hearst CT media) their families.

Mitzi Bowman 1924-2020

Mitzi Bowman died at Barre Gardens, Montpelier, VT, with her family by her side. Born in New York City on July 27, 1924, she was 95 years of age. Over the years she also lived in New York State, England, Connecticut, Nova Scotia and Vermont. A dynamic, strong-willed crusader for anything to do with peace and justice, civil rights, solar energy and Bernie, she was also a passionate anti-nuclear activist beginning in the early 70s.

She went to Music and Art High School in NYC, and then became a Master’s level Librarian. She loved music, was an artist, hiker, lifeguard, animal lover, sailor, and organic gardener. She loved singing with her three sisters, and lively political arguments. She joined the Air Force at 19-years-old during WWII where, stationed in Alabama, she taught the soldiers to swim. Widowed twice, she died on Valentine’s Day, as did her second beloved husband, Pete.

She is survived by her daughter Lori Bowman and partner Andy Harris of Montpelier, Vermont, her son Jason Bowman and his wife Beth, her granddaughter Marin Bowman, her partner Chris Winter, and her great-grandchildren Fiona and Shea Winter of Plainfield, Vermont. She leaves a younger sister, a 106-year-old cousin, two nieces, one nephew, their partners, one grandniece and three great-grand nephews in New York City. She was predeceased by her parents Lena and Joseph Silver, first husband Hy Bogursky, second husband Peter Bowman, and her sisters Buelah Lehrman and Lucille Weinstat.

A small memorial for family and close friends will be held in the spring. In lieu of flowers, donations in her name would make her very happy if given to the Bernie Sanders Campaign, 1 Church Street, 3rd Floor, Burlington, VT  05401, or to 350.org VT environmental group at 179 S Winooski Ave. #201, Burlington, VT  05401.

To plant a tree in memory of Mitzi Selma Bowman, please visit the Tribute Store: www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/11238525/Mitzi-Selma-Bowman.

In Memoriam, Anne Hall Higgins, 1921-2019

by Lesley Higgins-Biddle

Anne Higgins died on October 21, 2019, at her home in North Haven, Connecticut. Known for her commitment to social justice and racial equity, Anne was active in greater New Haven as a founding leader of People Against Injustice (PAI), with a special concern for prison reform and changes to Connecticut’s drug policy. She was active in New Haven/León Sister City Project after traveling to Nicaragua in her 60s and in the United Church of Christ state conference Peace and Social Concerns committee, which led her to be arrested for protests against nuclear weapons in Groton at the submarine base and in Washington, D.C. As an ordained minister, Anne believed unequivocally in “talking the talk and walking the walk.”

Anne was born in Bridgeport where her grandfather had been a progressive minister at Park Street Congregational Church on the city’s East Side. She attended a new, John Dewey-based elementary school that encouraged young girls to play sports, explore their intellectual gifts, and challenge social norms. She graduated from Smith College (1943) with a major in art and then became one of the first women to graduate from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity, subsequently becoming an ordained Congregational minister. At Yale Anne met the love of her life, Arthur Higgins, with whom she co-pastored small rural churches in upstate New York, Colorado and Maine, at a time when the profession was almost entirely dominated by men.

Anne and Arthur moved back to Connecticut to serve parishes in Chester and Wilton, and raise their four children. While in Wilton they became very active in civil rights, with Arthur attending the March on Washington and Anne becoming active in SNCC and CORE chapters in nearby Norwalk. Anne’s critique of the American power structure was a major inspiration for her art and she created many paintings that expressed both oppression and hope, often at the same time.

Throughout her life, Anne remained indomitably committed, both aesthetically and ethically, to a life well lived and that ‘spoke truth to power.’ From her friend Paula Diehl: “Her last years of ministry took the form of programming for elders in affordable housing. She always tried to increase residents’ world-view and help them to better tolerate and understand those who were not like them.”

Anne is sorely missed by her sons, Bart and Gerry, and her daughters, Lesley and Ethel, who are pictured here with her at an exhibition of her paintings at the New Haven Friends Meeting in 2018. Anne’s friends from PAI, the Nicaraguan Prayer Group, and the Friends Meeting, are grateful for having known her. The sparkle in her eyes will be missed by everyone who knew her.

In Memoriam, Joan Whitney, 1929-2019

(May Day 1995 photo)

(May Day 1995 photo)

It is with great sadness that we inform our readers that New Haven activist Joan Whitney passed away on Saturday, Nov. 9, at age 90.

Joan was a member of many activist organizations as well as neighborhood and cultural associations. Among the groups she worked with, gave leadership to, and supported are: Progressive Action Roundtable, Greater New Haven Labor History Association, Greater New Haven Cat Project, Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Parkfriends, Twenty-Twenty Vision, May Day Celebration Committee, Cherry Blossom Festival, New Haven Coalition Against War in the Gulf, Peace and Justice News and Views, Connecticut Peace Coalition/New Haven, Pledge of Resistance, Amistad Catholic Worker, New Haven/León Sister City Project, Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven Green Party, Long Wharf Theater and Yale Repertory Theater.

In addition to being part of many peace groups, for about 20 years, from 1990 on, she handed out flyers against war on a weekly basis on New Haven street corners.

Joan was born in Springfield Mass., and grew up as an “army brat.” She lived in many places as the family moved to wherever her father was stationed, including Geneva, NY, where her dad took command of the Seneca Ordnance. Several decades later, after her father passed, Joan was arrested for Civil Disobedience at the Seneca Ordnance as she climbed the fence with a No Nukes sign.

Joan was a 1950 graduate of Wellesley College and received a Master’s in Social Work at UConn in W. Hartford. She was a founder of Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) and worked at its community outpatient program in Bridgeport and New Haven.

She was a contributor to many charities. After her cat Phoebe passed in 1999, she created the Phoebe Foundation and generously funded it for the welfare of people and cats.

Joan generously offered her home as meeting space for many of her groups to plan their actions. She was a gracious hostess and livened up the meetings with her wry sense of humor and sharp perceptions.

For about 30 years she hosted an open house on New Year’s Day, featuring many varieties of soup and other appetizers. This gentle, loving way to welcome in a new year became a much-loved tradition for her friends.

Her daughter Dana predeceased her this past March as did her sister Jane in 2010. Our deepest sympathy to her son Christopher and daughter Rosemary.

We are grateful to have known Joan, worked with her, learned from her and laughed with her.

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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