September 17, 2015

Capital Region initiative engages community leaders

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT Communications
community meeting
Caption: Elder McKinley Johnson, pastor of the Greater St. John's Church of God In Christ in Albany, welcomes participants to his South End community Sept. 8 at the Campus South Center in Albany.

This summer NYSUT began to host organizing meetings with communities of color in the Capital Region. Vice President Paul Pecorale convened the first meeting in August at NYSUT in the Shanker Conference Center. It was attended by close to 90 community leaders. The intent of this community outreach work is to demonstrate the union’s efforts to bring change, justice and fairness to all.

In September, Pecorale held the second organizing meeting at Albany’s Campus South Center, a new GED and job-training center located on Warren Street. Sponsored by the Albany based Trinity Alliance, the meeting's aim was to organize with leaders of color to bring education, information and eventually action on pre-K-16, poverty and social justice issues.

Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, Vice President Catalina Fortino and NYSUT staff from Community Outreach, ELT, Retiree Services, and Research and Ed Services, have led the meetings, which also featured workshops on the AFL CIO "Common Sense Economics " modules. Trainers, staff and members from NYSUT, NYS AFL-CIO, CBTU & CSEA have also led aspects of the large and small-group discussions.

NYSUT locals that have participated include members of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers; APSTA; Troy TA; APSUE (SRP); UUP. Participants have included Elder McKinley Johnson, pastor of Greater St. John's Church of God In Christ in Albany; Chair of the 29-member African-American Clergy For Empowerment. Rev. Ted Ward (Schenectady); Rev. Valerie Faust (Albany); and Rev. Victor Collier (Saratoga), former chair of the Capital District Labor-Religion Coalition. Elected officials included Hon. Carolyn McLaughlin, Albany Common Council President and Albany County Democratic Leader and Schenectady City Council member, Marion Porterfield (D-Hamilton Hill).

The next community engagement meeting will take place during October in Schenectady.

These were the top three topics that came out of the first meeting in August.

1. Education: It is a vicious cycle of poverty. We need opportunities for those who learn by doing versus attending school (experience based education). Also, educating the community about these topics (ex. mass incarceration, economic impacts, voting, etc.).

2. Youth: Society directly impacts and affects them by the challenges the face each day. The youth do not see men as protectors. Instead, they may see men as transient and not consistent. Both need to work together. More of our youth are going to jail at an early age.

3. Voting: The lack of engagement of the African American community in the political process. Raising the Age Bill, will open up more residential facilities at NYS Office of Children and Family Services, hopefully curtailing jails from being the first option.