By Mary Alice Miller
Constituents, activists, lobbyists, and elected officials gathered from across the state on a cold Saturday in February to meet, greet and strategize at the 52nd Annual Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus. The well-attended event took place as usual in New York’s halls of power in the State Capital complex Albany.
Caucus Chair Assemblywoman Latrice Walker spoke of this year’s theme, “Fight the Power.” “The theme is an ode to the signature protest anthem by Public Enemy in which Chuck D and Flava Flav challenge listeners to fight the powers that be,” said Walker. “It is a fitting mantra as we join New York City and, indeed, the world in celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.”
Walker added, “As we gather this weekend, we are mindful of the challenges. In the face of these challenges, we are energized and equipped to fight for legislation to improve the lives of New Yorkers – inspired by the rich history of lawmakers of color who came before us.”
The packed workshops focused on health care, small business resources for MWBEs, criminal justice, immigrant communities, transportation, and veterans. Other overlapping workshops were directed at domestic violence, education, cannabis, climate, home ownership, employment, reproductive rights, and Black motherhood.
Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman hosted a panel on Breaking the Cycle of Generational Trauma through Civic Engagement for BIPOC Communities. Waterman stressed the importance of ensuring houses of worship have adequate resources to address community mental health. “We all know someone who has a health issue, and the first thing they will say is, ‘my pastor will pray with me,’” said Waterman. “Religious leaders need the resources to make appropriate referrals.”
Assemblywoman Nikki Lucas hosted Indoor Air Quality Workshop to Combat Airborne Sickness. Lucas plans to bring a pilot program to the 60th AD to address sick building syndrome. Using emerging technology that would filtrate air to kill viruses and mold, Lucas said added benefits of the program would bring job force training, certification, and placement to the district.
The workshop on Mobilizing our Communities to be Active Activists encouraged everyone to play a role in improving conditions in our communities. Everyone can witness and record events with a mini-computer in their pockets. No longer are police allowed to get away with harmful actions against community members. Now, said a panelist, police can face criminal charges, disciplinary actions, and referral to the Department of Justice.
Black Farmers Thriving workshop highlighted the opportunities available to Black farmers who grow sustenance and commodity crops. Black Farmers United and Farm School NYC share resources and provide support and encouragement to Black farmers.
Zeta Phi Beta hosted a workshop called Transforming Individuals and Communities by Creating Generational Wealth. Speaker Carl Heastie addressed workshop attendees and commended them for their community service.
The U.S. Freedman Project – Assemblywoman Lucas hosted a Reparation Legislation workshop. She spoke of her reparations bill (Bill draft #07401-01-3) that needs to be indexed. Based on the California Reparations bill and learning from that state’s experience, Lucas’ bill would address the vestiges of the U.S. chattel slavery system, establishes community eligibility as those whose ancestors were free in the U.S. as of 1900, establishes a Freedman Bureau, and focuses on New York State as a member of the United States (even though chattel slavery predates the United States and existed in the 13 colonies).
Attorney General Letitia James addressed the Women’s Luncheon and spoke of the importance of women in leadership.
The Northern Showstyle Coalition of Marching Bands featured elementary, middle, and high school students who moved around the showcase floor entertaining attendees. The coalition had schools from the greater New York area, including the Big Apple Leadership Academy for the Arts.