NYSUT event celebrates hope
Hope has been in short supply over the past year as the world has battled a devastating, once-in-a-generation, pandemic. But through it all, NYSUT members have persevered, bringing hope and inspiration to their students, their patients and their communities.
“Hope Gathering 2021,” the latest event in NYSUT’s Many Threads, One Fabric social justice series, celebrated that resilience with words of inspiration from NYSUT President Andy Pallotta and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; with impromptu performances by legendary musicians and activists Paul Anthony and Doug E. Fresh; and through visions of hope shared by participants. The event was hosted by J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, and moderated by the AFT’s Leven "Chuck" Wilson, Viri Pettersen, Cheryl Teare, Cesar Moreno Perez and Delisa Saunders.
“This event taps into the feelings that are deep inside of all of us — the dream of returning to in-person work and school, and to all the things we’ve had to sacrifice over the past year,” said Abraham. “As a union, we’ve made it through the past year with dedication, dignity and grace. I’m proud to celebrate the strength of our members.”
Weingarten encouraged participants to keep “looking for the light” when crisis seems insurmountable. “The vaccines have been a game changer, I’m seeing joy about being together again, seeing friends and teachers connect again,” she said. “Kids have hope because all of you found a way to connect with them.”
“Believing that there is something on the other side of our struggles that will bring us to a better place is what gives me hope,” said Pallotta who discussed his recent trip to Rome in Central New York where the district’s community school is helping meet the needs of local residents who are struggling due to economic hardship. “Things like this are happening all over the state, people pulling together, and it gives me hope for all of our communities.”
Through his organization Hip Hop Public Health, musician Doug E. Fresh raises hope by highlighting the importance of following public health mandates. “We produced videos about hand washing and mask wearing to help raise awareness,” he said of the group’s COVID-19 prevention work. “If everybody does a little, it means a lot.”
Former social worker Paul Anthony, a Grammy Award-winning musician, community activist and cancer survivor, fosters hope through the Paul Anthony Foundation, which promotes health and fitness and raises funds and provides support for fighting and curing cancer. “Some of the toughest cancers are cancers of the spirit and we cure those with infusions of hope and love,” he said. “The work of teachers, bus drivers and other school workers during this pandemic really resonated with me.”
Preya Krishna-Kennedy, Bethlehem Central Teachers Association, hopes that the pandemic lessons lead to stronger, more empathetic communities. “We’ve learned to problem solve better and become kinder as a whole,” she said. “I hope for greater love and equity for all.”
For health care worker Angela Maloney, hope rests in seeing “more people get vaccinated and trusting in the CDC and the health care system. That’s what will help us all return to a normal life.”
Rome Free Academy senior Jordan Purrington wants to “make sure we come together as one community so we can help those who will still be struggling in the years ahead.” She organized a “Coins for a Cause” fundraiser in her community to create an emergency fund for student needs like medical co-pays or winter boots. At a June celebration, the Rome Teachers Association presented Jordan with a $1,000 emergency fund donation.
To learn more about NYSUT’s Many Threads One Fabric events, visit nysut.org/manythreads.