COMMUNITY LEADERS TO BLACK OFFICIALS: SAVE BLACK LIVES DURING COVID-19

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[COVID-19\Black Elected Officials]
As COVID-19 threatens to ravage prisons across the state, Black community organizers from Riverhead to Rochester called on Black elected officials to loudly and publicly reject Governor Cuomo’s proposed bail rollbacks.
Photo: Facebook

Community organizers are asking New York's Black leaders to speak up for vulnerable Black New Yorkers.

Wednesday, dozens of Black organizers from across New York State called on Black elected officials to save Black lives during the COVID-19 pandemic during a digital rally and press conference.

The speakers included Sochie Nnaemeka (Executive Director of the Working Families Party), Kassandra Frederique (Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance), Akeem Browder (Director of the Kalief Browder Foundation), Marielle Shavonne Smith (Organizer with Black Love Resists in the Rust), Jae Calixte (Coordinator of Black Lives Matter - Hudson Valley), TS Candii (Lead Organizer with DecrimNY), Solomon Acevedo and Jon McFarlane (VOCAL-NY), and Rena Karena-Johnson (New York State Director of FWD.us).

As COVID-19 threatens to ravage prisons across the state, Black community organizers from Riverhead to Rochester called on Black elected officials to loudly and publicly reject Governor Cuomo’s proposed bail rollbacks. They argued that the fight against bail rollbacks is the fight for racial justice and that Black lawmakers need to step up and lead the charge.

In the middle of a public health crisis, speakers passionately conveyed that New York State should be trying to protect vulnerable New Yorkers, not criminalize them and that New York needs to be putting every ounce of its energy into keeping New Yorkers safe from this pandemic.

Speakers at the digital rally said the following:

Kassandra Frederique, Drug Policy Alliance: “This is not a moment for people to think about elections. This is a moment to think about whether our brothers and sisters are able to come home. The fact that the carceral curve is not being flattened is an abdication of responsibility and a signature on a death certificate. Today, we are calling on Black leaders to hear the call of Harriet. We are asking you to let our people go. We are asking you: no rollbacks, not ever, but certainly not now. We are desperately asking you to hold the line.We are asking you, Carl Heastie: be our Captain. Stay on our team. Our families are literally staring at death. There’s nothing else to say, we’re either going to save Black lives or we’re not.”

Sochie Nnaemeka, Working Families Party: “In moments of crisis, we see what our leaders value. We cannot allow our state to choose punishment over health. It’s time for our state to make the ethical choice. No rollbacks to bail reform.”

Marielle Shavonne Smith, Black Love Resists in the Rust: “Mass incarceration is a public health issue. In Western New York, we know all too well that jails are deadly. From the loss of India Cummings to the 29 other deaths that have happened right here in our jails. We need our Black political leadership to save Black lives by not rolling back bail reform.”

Jae Calixte, Black Lives Matter, Hudson Valley: “We’re looking to our Black leaders for representation. We voted you in. Don’t negotiate with Black lives.”

Jon McFarlane, VOCAL-NY: “I want to thank the Assembly, particularly Carl Heastie for really holding the line. When we’ve finally made some inroads to address mass incarceration, they want to take that away. To my Black elected officials, this is not about your seat. This is about Black lives.”

Wednesday's press conference can be seen here: https://zoom.us/rec/play/7sArcL3--2o3Et2W4wSDB_FxW9W9LP-s2yVM_foPzUvgUiM...

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