Monday, March 30, 2009

Immigration Forum Fosters Workers' Unity

As white supremacist anti-immigrant hate groups increase their targeting of New Haven and adjacent East Haven, a dialogue was held this week addressing the need for unity of workers of all racial and national backgrounds.

The historical background presented by Dr. Kenneth Brown, diversity training consultant from Maryland, led to a lively and productive exchange with the audience.

The meeting, organized by the Center for New Community, was held in the historic African American Dixwell neighborhood at Beulah Heights First Pentecostal Church and was welcomed by Bishop Theodore Brooks.

Brown expanded on the history of racism in our nation, built on slavery and on the exploitation of immigrants, and gave examples of how unity against racism has led to social progress. Recalling how the Irish and then the Italians were victims of super exploitation and were pitted against one another and against African Americans when they first came to the United States, he said they soon discovered that they had to get together in order to improve their conditions.

Brown gave the example of the early years of the auto workers union in Detroit when Henry Ford hired African American workers from the South as strike breakers. But when African American and white workers united in the UAW, “Ford lost his juice,” said Brown.

Today, exploited Mexican immigrants are picking apples in Michigan, said Brown, pointing out that while they must pay into Social Security, they can never collect. Referring to US trade policy, he asked the audience to consider why Latin America is in poverty conditions which are driving people to this country to survive.

“Why are we talking about hard working immigrants ‘taking our jobs?’” he asked the audience.

Alan Felder, a member of the service and maintenance union at Yale University, Local 35, and an independent plumber, said immigrants have most of the jobs in construction. When asked if Black workers had those jobs before, the answer was no.

New Haven needs to talk about how to get contractors to not exploit anyone, said Brown, adding that until the entire community gets together to fight exploitation, the contractor will just enjoy himself out on his yacht. The issue, said Brown, is that there should be jobs for everyone in New Haven.

Felder has made a name for himself as an African American who joined with the anti-immigrant Community Watch Dog Project to protest the municipal ID card issued in New Haven to allow everyone who lives in the city, regardless of status, a photo ID for business and public services. While saying he learned a lot at the meeting, he continued to maintain an “enforcement first” approach to undocumented workers.

A number of Felder's co-workers from Local 35, also at the meeting, expressed appreciation for the methodical and common sense approach presented by Brown. Local 35 has been a strong voice for immigrant rights and for workers unity in New Haven.

At the end of the meeting Brown walked to a group of Latino immigrants and asked each one to tell their story. “Wouldn't you want to know such hard working fine people?” he said to everyone in the church.

The dialogue was organized by Brown's son, Ken Brown Jr., who moved to New Haven several months ago to work on building unity—among African Americans, immigrants and all segments of the community—against anti-immigrant hate. He thanked his father profusely and left the meeting with the challenge to continue the process of coming together.

-- Joelle Fishman

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coalition Urges a Better Choice - Quality Services and Fair Taxation

More than 1,000 union and community activists with Better Choices for Connecticut gathered at the State Capitol on March 25 to urge the Governor and Legislature to stop budget cuts, enact fair taxes and help Connecticut overcome the economic crisis.

Rally emcee, Shawn Lang of the CT AIDS Resource Coalition said “if these cuts go through, more and more Connecticut residents will fall through a safety net already rife with holes.”

Lindsey Matthews, whose son George lives at a group home for people with developmental disabilities, thanked his 1199 union care-givers. “The people who help feed, bathe and clothe him every day do it because I can’t be there. I can’t imagine what life would be like for our family without this critical service and we’re just one family out of thousands.”

The Better Choices plan includes raising income taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents making over $200,000 per year, as well as closing corporate tax loopholes. Governor Jodi Rell has proposed a budget based almost entirely on cuts to services and layoffs of state workers. Nobel Prize economists say that reducing public spending in an economic crisis, when services are needed the most, would send the economy into a further downward spiral. Some estimate that Rell’s budget could cost the state from 30,000 to 50,000 jobs.

Peoples Center signs read: No Cuts - No Layoffs - TAX the RICH

More information at:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Coming Together to End Racial Profiling

Community meetings and solidarity actions are being organized in support of Latino residents and immigrant owned businesses in East Haven who have become the victim of racial profiling by police and targets of an extremist anti-immigrant hate group.

A week ago Father James Manship of St. Rose Church in New Haven was arrested while photographing police harassing the owners of My Country Store on Main Street in East Haven, where some members of his predominantly Latino parish live. When the story hit the press, Latino business owners on Main Street were visited by a hate group called North East White Pride, from Haverhill, Massachusetts, which delivered fliers headlined "Immigration or Invasion?"

The immigrant rights group Unidad Latina en Accion immediately began organizing support for the Latino community and reaching out to others for solidarity.

After hearing of the situation, Edie and Joelle Fishman and Dorothy Johnson representing the New Haven Peoples Center paid a visit to four Latino owned businesses to see firsthand what they are facing. Their account follows:

Our first stop was at Guti'z Bakery to show support and solidarity and naturally to taste their delicious breads. We were welcomed and thanked very much for coming. Information about the Peoples Center was left with phone numbers to call. We promised to encourage others to come and support the bakery.

The next visit to Los Amigos Grocery was very emotional. The owner and his wife and little child were in the store. A reporter who also happened to be there did translation. When we said how sorry we were that this incident is taking place it brought him to tears. No one had ever come to his store to show support. He said he is losing business because people are afraid to come in since the police started parking in the front and back of his store. This was the first day that he made a sale in some time. He couldn't believe that people would do this horrible thing to him, he said he just wants to survive.

Dorothy Johnson related the story of what African Americans went through in the segregation days in the South. "People had hatred in their hearts and in their minds. They were not born that way, but as time went on that hatred was drilled into their heads. But it is not right when hatred groups prey on immigrants who want to start a business. this really is going backwards," said Dorothy. "When you think about what happened to African Americans in the 60s down south, how difficult it was for them to survive, what did people do? They formed support groups, community groups, they educated and mobilized people to come together and victory was won. This is a very good opportunity for people who can't understand the immigrant situation to be educated because we should be joining forces to fight these big corporations, not fighting one another. This country has been divided so long, now we have a good opportunity to make the chane that should have happened decades ago."

Across the street we left information for the owners of La Bamba restaurant to contact us since they were not there. Then we went to My Country Store. We were greeted by a friendly young woman. We explained why we were there and she was very thankful. The same performance that the police did at Los Amigos Grocery, posting cars in front and back, they did here too and now their business is also slow. We said we are here for you. Dorothy related her story and said what happened in the 60's must happen now. We must regenerate this solidarity. The owner said the only word to use to describe how the Latino community feels is "terrified....all Latinos are being profiled not just immigrants," she said. "We live in constant fear."

She showed us the fliers that the extremist anti-immigrant group brought to their store, dressed in army fatigues. The propaganda that some of the anti-immigrant groups are putting out is that the immigrants "come for welfare, or to take our jobs and ring with them drugs, crime and disease." The fliers attempt to whip up hysteria by claiming "they send their children to school without immunization and expose your children to this."

There is a need for more education on immigration. Some people do not understand and think the immigrants have come to take their jobs. In many cases they have come for a livelihood because of the difficult economic conditions in their own countries caused by corporate trade agreements.

The Peoples Center encourages our friends and family members to please go down to the Latino owned stores, support them and embrace them. They are really afraid. It is time to spread the word. Go to these stores. Help our friends out. Spread the word now. When the time comes for a community meeting we must pack the hall with supporters and create the conditions so that bigotry cannot prevail.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Underground

Host: Sharmont (Influence) Little

Every Third Sunday
at the New Haven Peoples Center
37 Howe Street, New Haven

Sunday, March 15 from 7 to 10 pm
featuring Tantra from New York
and open mic

$5 cover at the door
Information: 203-606-3232

Monday, March 9, 2009

Better Choices Statewide Rally March 25

Mark Your Calendar

Better Choices for Connecticut – Rally at the State Capitol

March 25, 4:30 p.m.

Join with neighbors, friends, community groups, public service providers and consumers to support these Better Choices for our State Budget. Stop the cuts, enact fair taxes, and help Connecticut overcome this economic crisis.

Ø Increase income tax rates for those who can best afford it

Ø Close corporate tax loopholes

Ø Stop cuts in vital services when they are needed the most

Better Choices for Connecticut is a community coalition working to help Connecticut make smarter choices on ways to improve the state’s imbalanced revenue system so that it: Advances opportunity for shared prosperity for all Connecticut residents - Preserves services for children, families and the elderly - Creates and sustains good jobs - Reinvests in the middle class and our communities.

For more information contact Maggie Adair – or Bill Meyerson -

Saturday, March 7, 2009

First Friday Cafe Fri April 3

Feature Poet to be announced
Free 2 Spit hosted by Baub Bidon and J Sun
Friday, April 3 at 7 p.m.