Notes from Human Rights Committee Meeting on March 12
Subcommittees have areas of important focus. Racial Justice/Black Lives Matter/Criminal Justice Reform is now a separate committee of SOMa Action. Should this be the case for Women’s Rights, Religious Justice and LGBTQ Rights subcommittees?
If so, how to grow the committees in terms of numbers and diversity?
Requirements to be a committee:
* Chair or Rep to serve on SOMa Action Steering Committee
* Chair or Rep to have admin privileges to post on website and Facebook
* Chair to schedule committee meetings and develop agendas
It was suggested that there be recruitment for a “friends of” SOMa Action group, including people who are not able to attend meetings of the committee, but would like to participate in events and programs. Those folks could be called upon to make phone calls to elected officials, write letters, pick one action that speaks to them. Another possibility is to hold meetings via conference call.
Participants felt that, even if the Human Rights subcommittees become independent committees of SOMa Action, that we could still hold monthly Human Rights meetings for communication and cross-pollination purposes.
Racial Justice/Criminal Justice
Andrew Young reported on the newly independent Racial Justice/Criminal Justice committee. Members of the committee are researching organizations working on similar issues to find out where their missions overlap and where there is divergence. They are looking at what connections can be made with local and statewide groups as well as researching the positions of elected officials on issues that impact this issue area. Pressing issues are discrimination in local schools (e.g. South Orange Middle School) as well as holding local police accountable for racial profiling. In terms of criminal justice reform they are looking at mandatory minimum sentences, especially in drug cases.
Because schools are such an important issue, a suggestion was made to look at the demographic makeup of classrooms in SOMa (beyond just the make up of entire schools). Roni Bamforth will look into contacting presidents of local PTA’s about issues around integration and programs that might promote it.
In terms of pressing issues in all our focus areas, we can look at creating petitions, email campaigns and face-to-face meetings.
Andrew recommended the audio version of the Indivisible Guide and asked that we might find people with personal stories who are impacted by the Trump agenda. Personal stories can be impactful with elected officials. Elected officials are also attuned to their constituents so that even those not directly impacted must continue to call and write their legislators.
Another avenue for action in the area of Racial Justice is reaching out to at-risk populations in surrounding cities beyond SOMa, such as Irvington, Newark and Orange. Working through area churches, we could research what their needs are, especially for Black and Latino populations. It would move us from our bubble of white privilege to provide support for more at-risk communities.
Guillaume Meyers-Normand shared what the LGBTQ subcommittee has done since March 1. Their focus is on violence against transgender youth, immigrants who are LGBTQ and transgender rights. He and Minh attended a local North Jersey Pride event in Maplewood and made contacts there, such as the minister at Morrow Church who offered them space for meetings and events.
Guillaume and Minh are looking at about 12 organizations focused on LGBTQ rights and issues and have contacted several. There is a NJ foundation that provides support for transgender youth which they will contact as well as the Hedrick Martin Institute providing services in Newark.
The subcommittee has looked into the policies in SOMa for transgender youth in schools and found that the local school districts are following NY standards which help protect transgender youth (e.g. transgender use of restrooms). In addition they plan to research the views of elected officials on LGBTQ issues. The subcommittee will be recruiting for the Washington, DC Pride march in June.
Willa Bruckner reported on the work of the Women’s Rights subcommittee. The members are working to identify local organizations that need volunteers such as women’s shelters. They are also looking at organizations that serve women such as the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and Planned Parenthood. One question for their group is should they focus primarily on local needs or focus on involvement in national women’s issues. They would like to recruit additional members of the subcommittee. The contact for the January Women’s March in South Orange was Hildy Karp who may be a good resource for the subcommittee.
Roni Bamforth spoke about the program “Anne and Martin” of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect which could be a powerful event for the community in light of the recent racial and religious intimidation in the schools. Because of tax status issues the Anne Frank Center can not partner specifically with SOMa Action to bring the program to SOMa. Roni has contacted the local Holocaust Remembrance committee about sponsoring the program as well as the principals of the local Middle Schools and the rabbi at Congregation Beth El.
It was suggested that the Religious Justice subcommittee contact the presidents of the school PTA’s about bringing racial and religious justice programming to the schools.
One idea for the group is also to contact the local CAIR chapter about programming and outreach to local mosques, especially the local one in Union, NJ.
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