August 2019: SURJ NYC Unendorses the #CLOSErikers Campaign

SURJ NYC is committed to mobilizing white New Yorkers to decarcerate our city by closing Rikers Island and shrinking the population of our jails and prisons. 

Over the last several years, we have done this work alongside our accountability partner JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), supporting their #CLOSErikers campaign. Following Mayor DeBlasio’s commitment to close Rikers Island, there has been disagreement among various players in NYC about the Mayor’s plan to replace part of Rikers' capacity with one new and three expanded borough-based jails. In response, several campaigns have developed distinct demands and strategies. Most significantly, the #CLOSErikers campaign is advocating for approval and improvement of the Mayor's plan with what they believe to be transformative conditions, while the #NoNewJails (NNJ) campaign demands the closure of Rikers without building any new jails under any circumstances. 

Over the past few months, some of SURJ NYC’s individual members have been strongly supporting NNJ, some have been organizing powerfully with JLUSA, and we have been struggling together to come to an agreement about a collective way forward for SURJ NYC. Members have been particularly concerned about the seeming contradiction of organizing against white supremacy while supporting new or expanded jails, the urgent need to improve the conditions faced by currently incarcerated people, and the fear that Rikers may not close if the Mayor’s plan is rejected. There is also concern that the logic behind the Mayor's plan, implying that Rikers can only close if other jails are built or expanded, creates a false binary and normalizes incarceration. We have also put much thought into what it means to be a responsible partner to organizations we work with—many of whom have taken differing stances in this moment. In the resources linked below, you can read more about the nature of our members’ perspectives, the substance of the disagreements, and the conversations we’ve had at chapter meetings about this issue. While these discussions have happened with a great deal of respect, they have not moved those aligned with either campaign to a shared understanding of how SURJ NYC should move forward with regard to the Mayor’s plan.  

Because of the deep, substantive division within SURJ NYC about how to mobilize the power we’ve built in this crucial moment, SURJ NYC has decided to formally unendorse the #CLOSErikers campaign. SURJ NYC is currently endorsing neither campaign. 

While we cannot responsibly continue to endorse the #CLOSErikers campaign when so much of our membership opposes its strategy, we are unified in our commitment to working in partnership with JLUSA. We are proud of the work that we’ve done to stand in solidarity with JLUSA members, and of the relationships and trust that we’ve built with their organizers. We will continue to commit to that relationship, and to use our structures to support JLUSA’s #FREEnewyork and #2MillionVoices campaigns.

We will also continue to move our members into meaningful work and action to decarcerate our city.

We will provide political education that supports our membership to understand the ways that our carceral system is rooted in, and perpetuates, white supremacy. We will share resources on abolitionist theory and practice, making space for differing perspectives, and centering the perspectives of directly impacted people. And we will equip our members to take immediate and meaningful action by sharing calls to action, events, and information from both the #NoNewJails and #CLOSErikers campaigns, ensuring that members are aware of every opportunity to support this work. 

To learn about political education and campaign events, make sure you subscribe to our eblast, and follow us on Facebook or Twitter. To learn more about abolition and this issue, start with some of the resources below.

 

On Abolition

On the Campaigns

From #CLOSERikers supporters:

From NNJ supporters:

June/July 2019 Event Highlights

Wednesday, June 5th: RAPP (Release Aging People in Prison) Monthly Coalition Meeting

On June 5th at 6pm RAPP hosted their monthly coalition meeting by phone. On the call, they discussed updates, actions and next steps for all of RAPP’s initiatives (Elder Parole, Fair and Timely Parole and fully staffing the Parole Board) as the end of the state legislative session on June 19th was approaching.

Thursday, June 20: World Refugee Day Rally and March

We joined the African Communities Together (ACT) and the City of Refuge Coalition for their third annual World Refugee Day Action. Hundreds of New Yorkers from dozens of refugee, immigrant, religious, and community organizations staged a march from the New York Public Library and rally in front of Trump World Tower and the United Nations. Read more about the action and RSVP on Facebook

Tuesday, June 25: Project Reach Art Show Fundraiser

One Art Space hosted an exhibit that raised funds for Project Reach as rent continues to rise in Chinatown.

Thursday, July 11: SURJ NYC Chapter Meeting

While SURJ NYC is clear about the necessity and urgency of closing Rikers Island, there has been debate both among SURJ’s membership and groups we are in relationship with–especially the CLOSErikers and NoNewJails campaigns–about the best way to reach that goal. At July’s chapter meeting, we discussed various proposals around potential next steps. If you’re unfamiliar with the matter, we recommend watching the Manhattan hearings on the Borough-Based Jail Plan to learn more. You can watch Part One here, and Part Two here through Gale Brewer’s Facebook page. 

Thursday, July 18, 6:00-8:00pm and Saturday, July 20, 12:00pm-2:00pm: Nonviolent Direct Action Training

Our friends at Cosecha and coalition partners planned a direct action on August 10 in NYC to say NO to the concentration camps on the US border. There was a series of non-violent direct action trainings leading up to the action.

May 2019 Event Highlights

Saturday, May 4th: NYC Cannabis Parade and Rally

The NYC Cannabis Parade and Rally's mission is to end the prohibition of cannabis at all levels, recognizing the profound effects that discriminatory enforcement of drug laws has had on communities of color. The event’s coalition partners included Empire State NORML and the New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is working on a number of campaigns to shift New York’s drug policy away from the criminal justice system and towards a public health and safety approach. Whether you marched or not, the organizers ask you to support advocacy organizations like the Start SMART campaign, working to “stop the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition and to create a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in racial and economic justice.”

 

Saturday, May 11: Deep Canvassing for Police Accountability

When does a “hero cop” become a villain? On this day, canvassers asked folks about the Eric Garner case, and more broadly and deeply exploring what accountability means to us, and how that connects to the politics of policing. Deep canvassing means sharing vulnerably about our own stake in the issue, and listening curiously to the people we meet. Conversations tend to be long, in-depth, and responsive to what arises--not just angling toward an “ask.” Because of that, they have the potential to transform both our targets and ourselves. We also recruited folks for the trial (see below!). No prior knowledge was needed, we learn and practice together.

 

Monday, May 13th - Friday, May 24th: Showing Up for the Family of Eric Garner

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo faces charges for the murder of Eric Garner in an administrative disciplinary hearing with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. His family needs lots of volunteer support over these two weeks to ensure that there is some accountability for his death. During this time, SURJ members showed up to help pack the court, take notes, cover lunch for the family, and more.

Monday, May 13th: Our Plan: #CLOSErikers Bronx Community Forum

At this forum, directly impacted leaders from the #CLOSErikers campaign articulated their plan to close Rikers on the fastest possible timeline.

Wednesday, May 29th: Anti-Mass Incarceration Working Group Meeting

SURJ’s Anti-Mass Incarceration Working Group met to discuss ways to move into action against mass incarceration in NYC, New York State, and beyond. This month, we talked about criminalization and incarceration of pregnant people in the context of recent abortion bans passed in states across the country.


April 2019 Event Highlights

Wednesday, April 3: #Justice4Saheed Rally and Thursday, April 4: Saheed Vassell Memorial Vigil

In light of the news of the Attorney General not bringing charges against NYPD officers responsible for killing Saheed Vassell, we joined Saheed’s family, Communities United for Police Reform, and Brooklyn Movement Center to demand accountability for his murder. If you were unable to join, you can still help amplify Saheed’s family’s demands for justice via social media by following and sharing @changethenypd, @BKMovement and #Justice4Saheed content on Twitter.

The following day, we brought love and joined Saheed’s family to mark one year since he was killed, at the site where he was killed. Saheed was gunned down at roughly 4:45pm.

Thursday, April 4: April Chapter Meeting: So You’re a Gentrifier. Now What?

This month's chapter meeting addressed the issues of gentrification and displacement–what it is, what it means to be a gentrifier, and how to make choices that mitigate your harm to working class, POC, and immigrant communities. We also highlighted ways to actively support anti-gentrification efforts around NYC, including by supporting POC-led grassroots organizations like VOCAL-NY, Equality for Flatbush, and Queens Neighborhoods United.

Thursday, April 11: Moral March for Housing

In recognition of the upcoming expiration of tenants’ rights, we joined community, faith, & labor leaders to fight evictions. There was a rally at Abyssinian Baptist Church, followed by a march to the State Office Building to hold a vigil for those who have been evicted thanks to weak tenants' rights and unaffordable rent. 100 New Yorkers are evicted every day. It's now or never for housing justice— We need Universal Rent Control!

Tuesday, April 16-Wednesday, April 17: Scholars’ Academy & Project Reach’s Intensive Anti-Discrimination Clinic: Unpacking Racism, Sexism, Islamophobia, and Transphobia

This 12-hour, city-wide, Anti-Discrimination Training brought together a diverse community of 30-40 educators, service providers, social workers, administrators and parents/guardians from schools and community-based organizations in Queens. Speaker Corey Johnson, the New York City Council, and Project Reach seek to establish community and school-based Intergenerational Anti-Discrimination Teams of young people and adults trained to address bullying, implicit bias and discrimination in their communities. Drawing from 40 years of anti-discrimination and social justice training, Project Reach offered a unique opportunity to individuals, organizations and schools to experience its most successful and impactful workshops. All adults who work with young people and are committed to ending discrimination and fighting for social justice were encouraged to attend.

Monday, April 29: Call to Organize White Men Against Patriarchy and White Supremacy

This video call was a step in creating a national network of white men organizing other white men to be more effective accomplices to People of Color, women, femmes, trans and gender non-conforming folks in the struggle for collective liberation. While white men benefit most from white supremacy and patriarchy, our allegiance to these systems also damages us: in exchange for dominance, we deny ourselves the ability to work in solidarity with others and permit our own exploitation by more powerful individuals and institutions. By choosing instead to stand and fight with those disempowered by white supremacy and patriarchy, we can achieve mutual interests of justice, liberation, and self-actualization. This is an affinity group: anyone, regardless of race or gender, is welcome and encouraged to join. On this call, we discussed the need for this work, learn about the work people are already doing, and consider where each of us can plug in to engage our organizations, institutions, and communities.

Tuesday, April 30th: #HALTsolitary advocacy day in Albany!

CAIC (Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement) traveled to Albany on April 30th for a day of action/advocacy.  We are at a critical moment in the push to pass the HALT (Humane Alternatives to Long-Term) Solitary Confinement Act, A. 2500/ S. 1623 to keep all people out of isolation in New York State prisons and jails. The Assembly passed HALT last year and the Senate has the votes to pass HALT now.  People in solitary are subjected to inhumane treatment known to cause devastating psychological damage: 22-24 hours a day in a cell the size of an elevator with no meaningful human contact or programs & recreation alone in a cage.  


March 2019 Event Highlights

Thursday, March 7: Monthly Chapter Meeting: Interrogating Intersectionality

Traveling from academic papers to everyday tweets, intersectionality has evolved into quite the social justice buzzword. Many of us have heard the term used by friends, teachers, celebrities, or have used it ourselves. The term, though, was coined by Black feminist legal theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 as a framework to describe the oppression experienced by Black women: Crenshaw defined intersectionality as “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” With the misuse of the term widespread–particularly among white people in social justice circles–we dedicated our monthly meeting to understanding the term in its origins as articulated by women of color in order to transparently and thoughtfully explore its meaning and how it applies to our work in SURJ.

Wednesday, March 13: Understanding and Organizing to End Racial Capitalism

SURJ works to undermine white support for racism, and broaden the base of white folks showing up for racial justice as part of a powerful multi racial movement for transformative change. But what about this unjust economic system? How does racism help keep capitalism in place? SURJ National and leading activist scholar Robin DG Kelley held a webinar on what racialized capitalism means for our work and how class impacts white people’s role in the fight to end oppression.

Thursday, March 14: #CLOSErikers Manhattan Community Forum, and Wednesday, March 20th: #CLOSErikers Brooklyn Community Forum

In the many months since announcing its plans to close Rikers, the City has not shown a commitment to decriminalize and decarcerate as fast as is actually possible, which is major marker of where New York City is on moving toward racial justice. JustLeadershipUSA and its partners demand further decarceration and a faster route to decarceration. In March there were two community forums to hear directly from the experiences of formerly incarcerated leaders and to understand why they feel approving borough based facilities that prioritize shrinking the citywide jail system is urgent while continuing to fight for decarceration, improving conditions for incarcerated people in New York City, and ensuring that every last individual is free from Rikers Island as fast as possible.

Monday, March 25: Anti-Mass Incarceration Working Group Meeting

SURJ’s Anti-Mass Incarceration working group met to learn about ways to plug in the campaign to end mass incarceration in NYC and across the state. This month, we discussed how to end cash bail and decarcerate jails while also ensuring that survivors of harm or violence are protected.

Ongoing: Call Your Electeds about Universal Rent Control

Help stop homelessness and gentrification by asking your legislator to sign onto bills for universal rent control in New York City! Read more about the platform here. You can find your New York state senator here and your assembly member here.

February 2019 Event Highlights

Tuesday, February 5: New Sanctuary Coalition Pro Se Clinic

New Sanctuary Coalition runs a weekly clinic staffed by non-attorney volunteers and supervised by experienced immigrants rights organizers and immigration lawyers. The clinic helps people identify ways to get relief from deportation and detention; access other immigration-related benefits; understand their rights so they can fight their own case; apply for asylum; prepare for court appearances or interviews; and much more. They’re seeing tremendous growth in the number of immigrants seeking help and are looking for new volunteers—no previous or legal experience is necessary. This clinic is held every Tuesday.

Thursday, February 7: Chapter Meeting: Stopping Gentrification: What You Need to Know About NY Rent Laws

SURJ-NYC’s February chapter meeting focused on learning how to fight gentrification in NYC. New York State rent laws expire this year, creating an opportunity to win stronger renter protections for all of us. In our city, landlords exploit loopholes in rent laws (and poor enforcement of laws) to push out tenants of color and low-income tenants so they can raise rents and profit off of gentrification. Mid- and high-income tenants are sometimes unwitting accomplices in this process—but don’t have to be! Folks learned about the rights and responsibilities we have under current New York State rent laws and how we can support a campaign to improve rent laws in Albany this spring.

Sunday, February 10: #FREEnewyork Workshop on Bail & Discovery Reform

New York is on the verge of addressing its jail crisis, with Governor Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers speaking out in favor of bail and discovery reforms this year. However, this momentum makes it essential that we put pressure on them to do things right, and in order to do that we need to have a clear understanding of what we want bail and discovery reforms to accomplish. Members of SURJ-NYC and the Village Zendo co-facilitated a workshop to help our communities understand the issues of bail and discovery, and how the two work together to fill jails across the state with primarily low-income black and brown people. It was an afternoon of political education (and snacks!), and folks left with the tools needed to join the fight to #FREEnewyork in 2019.

Monday, February 18: Canvass for Universal Rent Control With The Metropolitan Council On Housing

Folks joined the Metropolitan Council on Housing to canvass for Statewide Universal Rent Control, which calls for an end to vacancy decontrol, makes preferential rents last for the duration of the tenancy, and the elimination of the 20% vacancy bonus, as well as permanent rent hikes caused by MCIs (major capital improvements) and IAIs (individual apartment increases).

February 14-15: Project Reach’s City-Wide Intensive Anti-Discrimination Clinic

This 12-hour, city-wide, Anti-Discrimination Training brought together a diverse community of 30-40 educators, service providers, social workers, administrators and parents/guardians from schools and community-based organizations in all five boroughs. Speaker Corey Johnson, the New York City Council, and Project Reach seek to establish community and school-based Intergenerational Anti-Discrimination Teams of young people and adults trained to address bullying, implicit bias and discrimination in their communities. All adults who work with young people and are committed to ending discrimination and fighting for social justice were encouraged to attend.


January 2019 Event Highlights

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Sunday, January 13: Court Watch NYC Training

Court Watch NYC is a collaborative project of VOCAL-NY, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, and 5 Boro Defenders. By joining Court Watch NYC, you will be the eyes and ears holding District Attorneys accountable in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Court Watch NYC holds regular trainings for people to learn how to collect real-time data of what is actually happening in courtrooms, record narratives that are not captured by the data, and contribute to accountability actions.  

Monday, January 14: #FREEnewyork Lobby Day with Alliance for Quality Education  

The #FREEnewyork campaign partnered with Alliance for Quality Education for an Albany Lobby Day. Together, we demanded jail decarceration and education justice! The day included lobby visits, speakouts, a press conference, and direct action calling on New York to divest from incarceration and instead invest in schools.

Monday, January 28: Webinar: Connecting the Dots: History of Policing with Andrea Ritchie

SURJ National had its the first webinar in the 2019 series "Connecting the Dots: Border Militarism, US Domestic and Foreign Policy, and the Myriad of Connections to Racial Capitalism." Andrea Ritchie joined for an overview of the history of policing in the US and how that history continues to impact the role of policing in the US today. Read more about her and her work here.

Tuesday, January 29: Parole Justice Advocacy Day

RAPP, the Parole Preparation Project, and others from around NY State met with NYS elected officials, march and rally to demand: 1. A fully staffed Parole Board with Parole Commissioners who have professional backgrounds in rehabilitation; 2. Elder parole, which allows all incarcerated older people, aged 55 plus an opportunity for parole release after serving 15 consecutive years in prison; 3. A parole process that centers change and transformation instead of punishment and re-sentencing. Free transportation was provided from NYC and made available in other regions of the state as needed. Food was also provided.

End of 2018 Event Highlights

The end of 2018 was marked by lots of parties and social gatherings bringing together organizers and raising money for organizations run by and for people of color.

Friday, November 9: Screening of Ava Duvernay’s 13th at MINKA Brooklyn

SURJ members came together to view Ava Duvernay’s documentary on mass incarceration, participate in a group discussion, and build community. Co-hosted by MINKA and the Brooklyn Center for Sacred Activism.

Thursday, November 15: Parole Preparation Project Welcome Home Party and Fundraiser

Folks came together to celebrate the homecoming of the many Parole Preparation Project applicants who were recently released from prison after serving decades inside. There was food, drinks, music, and great company! Tickets were sold sliding scale, starting at $25.

Saturday, December 8: Rage Against White Supremacy: A Fundraiser with SURJ Central Brooklyn

The SURJ Central Brooklyn chapter danced out all our fury at 2018 while raising money to support organizing in our neighborhood! All donations went directly to the Brooklyn Movement Center, who are building black and brown power in Central Brooklyn and leading efforts in our neighborhood to fight gentrification and police violence.

Sunday, December 9: Send Them Home for the Holidays: A Letter-Writing Party

SURJ members joined Survived and Punished NY for "Send them Home for the Holidays," a holiday card writing party for those behind prison walls in New York State. Sending cards and small gift packages is one way that we can lessen the loneliness experienced during the winter time.

Thursday, December 13: Welcome Home Fundraiser

This merry everything holiday party raised funds for people leaving prison on parole, in association with Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and the Parole Preparation Project (PPP). It was a night of food, drinks, stories, music, and some wealth redistribution! Tickets were sold on a recommended sliding scale of $25-$100, but no one was turned away for lack of funds. Check out this video clip of the event to see more!

October 2018 Event Highlights

Wednesday, October 3: Bronx Public Scoping hearing re: Mayor's Borough Based jails plan

From September 20th - October 3rd, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice held Scoping Hearings on their proposal to close Rikers and move to a system of borough-based jails, one each in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. Supporters of the #CLOSErikers campaign showed up at these hearings with a strong and coordinated voice that grounded the conversation in the humanity of the people currently and formerly incarcerated on Rikers Island, and the human rights violations they face on a daily basis there.

Thursday, October 4: SURJ NYC October Chapter Meeting: What’s Class Got To Do with It?

This month’s chapter meeting was a conversation and reflection about how class in the US class system supports white supremacy, and what we can do to challenge and undermine intertwined systems of economic exploitation and racism. This meeting included two parallel conversations: one on the intersection of class and race generally, focusing on the stereotypes of the white working class that have gained steam after the 2016 election, and a separate conversation about how operating in a more class-conscious way could improve SURJ NYC’s work specifically.

Sunday, October 7 and Monday, October 8: Indigenous Peoples Celebration

With Redhawk Native American Arts Council, this event honored water protectors and featuring performances, vendors, guest speakers, and more! Please also consider making a donation to support the event, and the movement to change outdated holidays.

Sunday, October 21: Make Calls, Raise $ Money with SURJ Central Brooklyn

SURJ Central Brooklyn had a night of political engagement! At this meeting, we worked on two sets of projects: 1) phonebanking for Andrew Gounardes, who is running in Brooklyn for a key state senate seat, and 2) fundraising for the Brooklyn Movement Center. We also had pizza, got to know each other, and learned how to plug into SURJ’s work!

Tuesday, October 30: SURJ National Indigenous Solidarity Networking Call

At the national level, SURJ’s Indigenous Solidarity Working Group organized a call to connect local activists who want to help deepen the dialogue around Indigenous sovereignty and anti-colonial work in their various organizations and movements. This group will aim to work in solidarity and in mutual interest to learn the histories of the land we live on; our own histories; and to protect water, life, and land; and come into ways of relating that are not based on erasure, theft, and genocide, but instead upon humility, reciprocity, responsibility, respect, and mutual care for all forms of life, the planet, and future generations.


September 2018 Event Highlights

Wednesday, September 12: Race & Love at Brooklyn Free School: Preparing Kids to Dismantle White Supremacy

Anastasia Higginbotham, Brooklyn Free School parent and author, hosted a discussion and shared "Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness," the newest addition to her children's books series "Ordinary Terrible Things." Childcare was provided.

Monday, September 17: VOCAL-NY Annual Gala

In the past year, VOCAL-NY and its partner organizations launched Court Watch NYC, passed a law to require city shelters to train staff and residents on how to reverse an overdose, and distributed over 110,000 sterile syringes to communities in need in Brooklyn. Folks came out to celebrate these and VOCAL’s many other accomplishments!

Tuesday, September 18 through Tuesday, September 25: Mass Bail Out Volunteer Trainings

The Mass Bail Out is a collaborative effort to free 450 people from Rikers Island in early October. It will be the largest bail out action held to date and a truly historic moment in the fight to end mass incarceration. The action will be powered by more than 200 volunteers, who will receive all the money and information required to bail out two of their fellow New Yorkers. People attended trainings to work the Bail Out. More information can be found here.

Saturday, September 22: Guide to City Government Workshop

Whether you are an organizer determining targets and tactics for a campaign, a concerned citizen looking for the most effective place to seek help or air grievances, or just curious about how things work, this workshop provided a helpful primer or refresher on the basics of engaging with local elected officials. You can find more info here.

Thursday, September 27: Elected Civilian Review Board Press Conference and Hearing

The Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board is making real progress to hold the NYPD accountable for violence. This press conference was an opportunity for people to rally at City Hall by participating, holding photos of victims of NYPD violence, or just being there to support the cause. After the press conference, a key City Hall hearing started at 6pm, and testimony was given to the commission. To volunteer or for more info, email StopPoliceViolenceNYC@gmail.com.


August 2018 Event Highlights

Thursday, August 9th: Fundraiser for Black Love Resists in the Rust

Folks came out to a house party on August 9th to support & get to know the work of Black Love Resists in the Rust. BLRR—launched in 2017 by Natasha Soto and Shaketa Redden in Buffalo, NY—is a transformational organizing group committed to the liberation of Black folks and the building of community and political power in Buffalo, NY and the accountability partner of Buffalo SURJ. In 2017, they organized and WON a campaign to abolish Buffalo’s “Strike Force,” the deadliest police unit in the city. This fundraiser allowed people to learn more about our work, build relationships between organizers in NYC and Western NY, and eat/drink well in Harlem.

Monday, August 20: #2MillionVoices Volunteer Night

JLUSA was founded on the principle that “those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, but furthest from resources and power.” The #2MillionVoices campaign seeks to remedy that disparity by bringing incarcerated voices to the front lines. On this night, people helped process membership requests from people incarcerated across the country and survey responses from incarcerated members throughout New York State.

Tuesday, August 28: Picture the Homeless Protest and Rally

The Civil Rights campaign at Picture the Homeless embarked on a major campaign to make bathroom access easier for ALL New Yorkers, housed and homeless alike.  

Friday, August 31: International Overdose Awareness Day March

Folks joined VOCAL-NY at this year’s International Overdose Awareness Day march to “mourn those we’ve lost, and fight like hell for the living.” Last year, New York City lost 1,441 lives to overdoses—that’s more deaths than from homicides, suicides, and traffic accidents combined. The impact is heightened for people who are marginalized: overdose is the leading cause of death among people living in shelters; people leaving incarceration are 40 times more likely to overdose in the first two weeks after release; and last year, the Black community had an 80% increase in fatal overdoses. Activists from across the city gathered at the morgue to mourn and remember the lives we have lost, then march to Governor Cuomo’s office to demand he take real action to end overdose now!

Ongoing donation: Support the Trans Asylum Seekers in Charlottesville and Queens

We have the opportunity to continue supporting trans asylum seekers who have been released to sponsors in Charlottesville, and to fight for the release of one who is sponsored from Queens. Donations will cover food, clothings, transportation costs, and lawyer fees among other necessities.  \Please read more about these courageous women and donate if you are able.

June/July 2018 Event Highlights

For the first two months of summer, SURJ NYC focused on a wide variety of issues, including reparations to Black people, advanced court watch, the second anniversary of Delrawn Small’s death at the hands of the NYPD, action security training, and many others!

Tuesday, June 12th: COURT WATCH BEYOND THE BASICS: Drug Policy

As NYC DAs unveil new plans to "divert" people charged with drug possession and to also stop prosecuting marijuana possession cases - it's important that all court watchers are up to date on new DA promises so that we can hold them accountable. In this training, participants learned about DA policies and practices around drug crimes and got trained on what to watch out for in the courtroom.

Thursday, June 21: Monthly Chapter Meeting: The Why and How of Reparations to Black People

This month's chapter meeting drew on the leadership of the Movement for Black Lives, Safety Pin Box, and others to explore the case for paying reparations to Black people. We dug into how we as white people can do this both in the here and now and in bigger, structural ways in the future. We explored the meaning of reparations for white people with different class positions. As regularly happens at chapter meetings there was a 30-minute orientation for those new to SURJ prior to the main meeting.

Tuesday, June 19: Juneteenth Statewide Protests to #FREEnewyork

From our accountability partner, JLUSA: “June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, commemorates the abolition of slavery. But as directly impacted communities know, we are not yet free. On June 19th, we call out everyday injustice occurring in courthouses across the state: Unaffordable bails. Mass pretrial incarceration. Guilty until proven innocent. A price on your freedom. ” Protests occurred outside courthouses around the state and here in NYC. 

Thursday, June 28: House Party for CPR

SURJ NYC threw a summer house party to raise money for Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), a comprehensive campaign to end discriminatory and abusive policing in New York City. People enjoyed food, drinks, music and an opportunity to hear more about CPR's current work. Suggested donation was $50, but donations of any size are encouraged—no one was turned away for lack of funds! Missed it? You can still donate here.

Monday, July 2: Vigil for Delrawn Small

On July 4, 2016, NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs murdered Delrawn Small, who was unarmed, on the corner of Atlantic Ave. and Bradford St. in East New York. In spite of murdering Delrawn in front of his family, letting him bleed out in the street without offering CPR or any other aid, and lying about what had happened, Isaacs is still an NYPD officer, collecting a city paycheck, and no charges have been filed against him. Protesters commemorated the second anniversary of Small’s murder on this day. More details in the Facebook event

Tuesday, July 10: Action Security Training

At this training, people learned how to participate in a team that works to keep protesters safe from cars, the police, and counter-demonstrators at rallies, marches, and protests. Attending this training allows people you to support upcoming #FREEnewyork actions, police accountability demonstrations, and much more.

Saturday, July 14: Anti-Gentrification Deep Canvassing, Crown Heights

Deep canvassing is a tool for breaking through white supremacy culture and calling our white neighbors into the fight for racial justice. We collaborated with the Crown Heights neighborhood group to deep canvass our white neighbors in gentrifying communities about our attitudes toward the police and alternatives to getting them involved in conflicts. Attendance was welcome to all; no prior knowledge needed.  

Wednesday, July 25: Phonebanking for Deep Canvass Recruitment

So many people have signed up for SURJ but don't know where to start. At this meeting, we called SURJ folks, connecting on our shared commitment to anti-racist action, and offering concrete opportunities to get involved. Folks were so glad to be given the opportunity to participate! Whether or not they have space in their lives in the immediate future, the conversation lifts up their stake in this work going forward - not to mention lifting up our own! This work is sometimes useful for the deep canvassing project, and always liberatory for ourselves and useful for the movement. It's fun and fulfilling because it's an act of relationship-building and solidarity, not sales.

Ongoing: Pledge To Build A World Without Police With SURJ National

SURJ is inviting white folks across the country to examine our relationship to policing, especially given the recent, high profile incidents of white people calling the police to report Black people for doing all manner of things, including: sitting in a Starbucks, having a barbecue, sleeping in their own dorm room, renting an AirBnB, eating at Waffle House, golfing, walking through their own neighborhood, driving with leaves on their car, and more. Learn more and sign the pledge!

 

May 2018 Event Highlights

In May 2018, with the weather getting warmer, SURJ-NYC’s monthly chapter meeting was a potluck picnic in Washington Square Park. We also supported and encouraged folks to attend various events and workshops around the city, including a day of deep canvassing, a rally to demand accountability for Saheed Vassell’s death, and a fundraising concert for the Elected Civilian Review Board.

Wednesday, May 2: Justice for Saheed Vassell Rally

May 2nd marked four weeks since Saheed Vassell was killed by the NYPD. SURJ joined Saheed’s family and community in rallying to demand the names and disciplinary records of all officers involved, the release of all unedited surveillance video of the shooting, and an explanation for why SRG officers were on the scene.

Sunday, May 6: Anti-Gentrification Deep Canvassing - Park Slope

Deep canvassing is a tool for breaking through white supremacy culture and calling in our white neighbors to the fight for racial justice. This day of action was part of an ongoing collaboration with two central Brooklyn SURJ neighborhood groups to deep canvass our white neighbors in gentrifying communities about our attitudes toward the police and alternatives to getting them involved in conflicts.

Ongoing Until May 11th: Mama’s Bail Out NYC

All over the country, communities are coming together to show love and support to Black mothers who are separated from their families because of the punitive cash bail system.  Here in New York City, bail bonds companies take advantage of those who are most vulnerable—and unfortunately due to the inaction in City Hall and Albany, that won’t stop anytime soon. VOCAL-NY’s goal for this year’s Black Mama Bail Out Day is to raise $30,000 by May 11th to pay the bail of as many mothers as we can.

Saturday, May 12: Court Watch NYC Training

Court Watch NYC is a collaborative project of VOCAL-NY, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, and 5 Borough Defenders. Court Watch volunteers collect real-time data of what is actually happening in courtrooms, record narratives that are not captured by the data, and contribute to accountability actions. On this day, people learned to be the eyes and ears holding District Attorneys accountable in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Thursday, May 17: UPLIFT! BROOKLYN: feat. Bajah, Resistance Revival Chorus & more!

The NYC Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board hosted a fundraising concert as part of the Sound Mind Collective's Uplift! Brooklyn series. The ECRB campaign seeks to hold police accountable for their misconduct through more equitable and transparent oversight structures. All proceeds supported the campaign. It was a night of music and activation, where we celebrated movement towards a safer, more just NYC.

Thursday, May 31: Survived & Punished Letter-Writing Night

On this night, folks joined Survived and Punished, NYU Prison Education Program, and Project NIA to write letters to survivors of gender violence who are incarcerated in New York State prisons, and learn about the #FreeThemAll Mass Commutations campaign.

April 2018 Event Highlights

In the wake of Saheed Vassell’s murder at the hands of the NYPD, SURJ focused its April chapter meeting on alternatives to calling the police. Other events included court packing to support Merci Chrisette, marching to mark the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, and continued Anti-Mass Incarceration work and support for incarcerated people.

Wednesday, April 4: To The Promised Land March

People gathered and walked through Harlem with leaders, artists and activists to hold reverence for and celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. The event was hosted by Black Lives Matter Greater New York, Peace Accelerators, and One Tribe Ventures, among others. More information can be found on the website

Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14: Alliance of Families for Justice Regional Conference

Building on the momentum of last year’s March for Justice, this was the first of a series of six regional conferences around New York state exploring the impacts of mass incarceration on families and communities.

Monday, April 16 - Tuesday, April 24: #Fight4Merci Trial Support

Merci Chrisette, a Black trans woman, is facing 7 years in prison for defending herself after being harassed by a stranger on the train. After she turned herself in and was detained in a male facility on Rikers Island, she was released on bail with the support of over 270 contributors. The #Fight4Merci Collective asked supporters to fill the courtroom every day Merci goes before the judge. Learn more about Merci’s case here.

Thursday, April 19: Chapter Meeting: Alternatives to Calling the Police

In the wake of the NYPD’s murder of Saheed Vassell on April 4 in Crown Heights, this month’s chapter meeting focused on what to do instead of calling the cops—particularly in gentrifying communities. This was the fourth police killing in the city in the past nine months (the others being Dwayne Jeune, Miguel Richards, and Mario Sanabria), and part of the long history of the NYPD’s mistreatment and killings of people with disabilities and/or in emotional distress. Participants learned how to plug into SURJ NYC’s ongoing work—with organizations like Communities United for Police Reform and Justice Committee—to end police violence.

Wednesday, April 25: #2MillionVoices Volunteer Nights

Participants helped JLUSA process membership requests from people incarcerated across the country and survey responses from incarcerated members throughout New York State.

Ongoing: Call Your State Senator to Support Reform of New York’s Bail and Discovery Laws

Want to help #FREEnewyork today? Make a quick call to your State Senator to ask them to co-sponsor two recently introduced bills (or thank them if they are already co-sponsors): S3579-A, a bail reform bill introduced by Senator Gianaris, and S7722, a discovery law reform bill introduced by Senators Bailey and Benjamin.

 

March 2018 Event Highlights

March’s events consisted of ongoing Anti-Mass Incarceration work, support for farmworkers’ rights, and showing up to protest the death of Stephon Clark. For more information about future events, sign up for our mailing list!

 

Ongoing: Call Your State Senator to Support Reform of New York’s Bail and Discovery Laws

Want to start helping #FREEnewyork today? Make a quick call to your State Senator to ask them to co-sponsor two recently introduced bills (or thank them if they are already co-sponsors): S3579-A, a bail reform bill introduced by Senator Gianaris, and S7722, a discovery law reform bill introduced by Senators Bailey and Benjamin.  

 

March 11-15: Freedom Fast for Farmworkers’ Rights

On March 11-15, organizers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers fasted outside the the hedge fund offices of Wendy's board chair. Wendy’s has resisted workers’ demands that it join many other large food buyers and sign onto the Fair Food Program, a system that ensures farmworkers in Florida are harvesting food under livable conditions and have a voice on the job.

 

Wednesday, March 14: Day of Action in Albany

To fight mass incarceration across New York State, on March 14th, JLUSA brought the #FREEnewyork Town Hall Tour to Albany with a Day of Action. Activities included a lobby day, a legislative campaign launch, and a blow-out Albany Town Hall.

 

Wednesday, March 21: Rikers: Innocence Lost Film Screening

The Incarceration and Public Health Action Network at Columbia showcased the short film Rikers: Innocence Lost. After the screening, there were panels featuring the filmmaker and project leaders, people from the film and leaders from organizations working to Close Rikers.

 

Wednesday March 28: Decarcerate Brooklyn Event

At this event, participants heard from directly-impacted people on how the movement to close Rikers Island prison could affect communities in Brooklyn. Darren Mack, a leader within Just Leadership USA (a SURJ NYC accountability partner) spoke at this powerful forum along with Tina Luongo (Legal Aid) who appeared on a panel of advocates responding to Brooklyn elected officials.

 

Wednesday, March 28: Justice For #StephonClark

Stephon Clark was a 22 year old black father of two gunned down by police in Sacramento, CA. He was murdered by Sacramento Police officers on March 18, 2018, in his own backyard. They shot him over 20 times claiming they thought he had a gun, but only his cellphone was found at the scene. Read more about why the incident cannot be tolerated. SURJ members participated in a Manhattan rally to protest Clark’s murder.

February 2018 Event Highlights

Even though February is a short month, SURJ-NYC had a lot going on. See the descriptions below for some highlights. If you are interested in hearing about future events, sign up for our mailing list!

You Can’t Deport a Movement. Emergency Rally for Ravi Ragbir Immigrant rights activist, Ravi Ragbir, was scheduled to report to the immigration building to be deported on February 10th. New Sanctuary Coalition and their allies called for an emergency rally to show solidarity with Ravi and immigrant communities across America. Thankfully, Ragbir was granted a temporary stay of deportation.

The Long Arc of Justice: Revisiting the Civil Rights Movement. SURJ members attended this talk and had a structured debrief at the the Brooklyn Historical Society. Historian Jeanne Theoharis discussed her new book, "A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History," which challenges the contemporary memory of the civil rights movement as peaceful, widely supported, and non-confrontational.

February Chapter Meeting SURJ-NYC’s monthly chapter meeting took  a look back at the first year of the Trump presidency to think about how to build sustainable activism rooted in motivation rather than urgency (purpose, not panic!). We discussed how to avoid the habits of white supremacy, white saviorism, and apathy/overwhelm in this political moment, and then work to identify long-term solutions that foster purposeful engagement.

VOCAL-NY Ally Teach In. VOCAL-NY had their second educational teach-in focused on Overdose and the War on Drugs. From the beginnings of the racist and failed drug war decades ago, to 2017 where over 64,000 people died from overdose, VOCAL-NY discussed how we got here, where we are now, and what we need from our Mayor and Governor to save lives and strengthen our communities. There was also a naloxone training, so participants could learn how to save a life!

Screening of Rikers: an American Jail. Folks attended this screening of this riveting new documentary from Bill Moyers, which brings you face to face with women and men who have endured incarceration at Rikers Island. More than 7,500 people are detained at Rikers Island on any given day; almost 80% have not been tried for anything. The film was followed by a powerful panel discussion, including activists from Just Leadership USA.

 

January 2018 Event Highlights

The first month of 2018 saw Anti-Mass Incarceration and Intersectional Feminist events, including a Study-into-Action meeting that looked into the intersection of prison abolition and gender justice. SURJ NYC also continued to support ongoing efforts by Jewish Voice for Peace and Court Watch NYC. Below are a few highlights of events that SURJ NYC supported or hosted this past month. For information on current or future events, join us and sign up for our mailing list!

Centering Intersectional Feminism for the Win Webinar: This webinar was designed for feminists of all genders who experience white privilege. This interactive workshop covered: a brief overview of intersectional feminist analysis, applying intersectional feminism to your organizing, body-based tools for increasing resiliency and decreasing white fragility, the relationship between whiteness and gender, and embodied approaches to anti-racist leadership development.

AMI Feminist Study-into-Action: The Anti-Mass Incarceration Campaign has its second Feminist Study-into-Action. This is a monthly conversation exploring the intersections of prison abolition and gender justice and the ways we can show up to these intersections in our anti-mass incarceration work.

#CLOSErikers Action Night: The JustLeadershipUSA Team (our accountability partner with the #CLOSErikers and #FREEnewyork campaigns) ramped up efforts to register members nationwide inside correctional facilities. This event included processing letters, entering data and writing responses, all to support to support JLUSA’s work.

#2MillionVoices Volunteer Night: Another Just Leadership USA event focused on voter registration for incarcerated members nationwide—an enormous project. The campaign is called #2MillionVoices for the approximately 2 million people incarcerated in the US today.

ONGOING: Sign Petition to End Deadly Exchange: Our friends at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) are working to end U.S.-Israel police exchange programs through the Deadly Exchange campaign, which SURJ NYC has endorsed. These programs promote the exchange of worst practices between the Israeli military and the US and extend discriminatory and repressive policing in both countries. We invite you as our members to sign JVP's petition calling on the Anti-Defamation League to stop hosting seminars and programs that exacerbate the crisis of police violence in the U.S. and glorify militarization and oppression in Israel/Palestine. Collecting signatures on this petition is the primary strategy of the campaign at this time, and every single signatures helps.

ONGOING: Court Watch NYC: Court Watch NYC is a collaborative project with VOCAL-NY, Brooklyn Bail Fund, and 5 Borough Defenders. By joining Court Watch NYC, you will be the eyes and ears of accountability in Brooklyn and Manhattan courtrooms. Court Watch NYC volunteers will collect real-time data of what is actually happening in courtrooms, record the narratives that are not captured by the data in the courtrooms, and contribute to the accountability actions. Court Watchers will be required to go to a Court Watch Training 101 prior to their first watch shift and to choose court watch shift(s)—a wide range of court watch shifts will be offered and located in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Join the movement and become a Court Watcher by applying HERE!

December 2017 Event Highlights

December 2017 included many anti-mass incarceration events, workshops on “calling in” to help folks have productive conversations about race with family members who they may only see during the winter holidays, and, most excitingly, a fundraiser for our accountability partner, Project Reach! Below are a few highlights of events that SURJ promoted or hosted this past month. For information on current or future events, sign up for our mailing list!

Tuesday, December 5: Anti Mass-Incarceration Teach-In

This was an evening with VOCAL-NY to learn about mass incarceration, how you can be part of dismantling this racist system, and a new court monitoring program to hold the criminal justice system accountable to the needs of vulnerable New Yorkers.

Thursday, December 14: Very Merry Happy Everything Party & Fundraiser to Save Project Reach

Project Reach is a multi-racial, multi-gender youth center and organizing space that has been a home to young people and community organizations across NYC for over 30 years. They opened their doors to SURJ for our very first meeting. Rising rent and government budget cuts mean that Project Reach needs emergency funds to keep its doors open and its programs running in the new year. This event was a wonderful fundraiser that included food, drinks, a silent auction, music, and performances in celebration of Project Reach’s work and in solidarity to keep it going.

Saturday, December 16: Calling In 101 Workshop

Our Calling In 101 workshop is a regular event that is designed to increase participants' ability to engage in conversations around race and racism. We identify opportunities for "calling in" versus "calling out,” define white fragility and discuss how to navigate it, and learn tactics to address common microaggressions and racist statements. Participants should leave the workshop with tools for calling more white people into the movement for racial justice.

Sunday, December 17: Deep Canvassing in Sunnyside, Queens

Deep Canvassing is another regular activity that SURJ puts on in various neighborhoods in the city. It is a Base Building project that trains folks to use empathetic communication skills in order to call white people into racial justice work from their own doorsteps. We use personal stories in this work—think about a time when you wanted accountability for harm. It doesn’t have to explicitly be about race.