On September 17th, Cities for Citizenship (C4C), a national initiative aimed at increasing citizenship among eligible legal permanent residents (LPRs), celebrated its 1-year anniversary. CPD co-coordinates the program with the National Partnership for New Americans and under the leadership of the Mayors of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. Citi Community Development is the founding corporate partner. Since its launch in September of last year, nearly 20 cities have joined and more than 6,000 individuals nationwide were assisted in their pursuit of citizenship. Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of C4C’s founding mayors, highlighted the initiative in his remarks during a Citizenship Day oath ceremony celebrating the naturalization of over 100 immigrants.
The White House recently released a statement highlighting C4C as an example of an initiative working in support of its “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign, which aims to break down the barriers eligible immigrants face when seeking citizenship.
In September, CPD’s Immigrant Justice Initiative launched its first field operations in four states, with CPD partners hitting the streets talking to immigrant families about Obama’s Executive Action program, how they can know if they qualify and how they can get involved in organizing to defend it. DAPA could potentially help 4 million people living in the United States. Although DAPA is just the beginning of the immigration reform we need, it is nevertheless an important first step.
A lawsuit led by the State of Texas is still holding up DAPA’s implementation, but CPD partners, like the Texas Organizing Project, Workers Defense Project, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Working Partnerships USA, Make the Road New Jersey, Make the Road Pennsylvania, CASA Pennsylvania, and Make the Road NY are not letting this slow them down. Using ALCANCE, a mobile application for tablets developed by CPD to talk to people about DAPA and other forms of relief, organizers are reaching out to thousands of people, starting in Texas, California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, New York, and expanding soon to New Mexico and Illinois.
CPD has scheduled an online demonstration of the Alcance app for October 21st at 1pm ET and you are invited to attend! RSVP here.
Please watch and share our short video which encourages people to get involved as well as our tutorial for those wishing to use the app.
If your organization might be interested in using ALCANCE for your outreach, please fill out this inquiry form or just let us know.
In September, the Center for Popular Democracy, along with our core partner Make the Road New York, joined the Coordinating Committee of the iVote NYC Coalition. The coalition, which is made up of a diverse group of labor and immigrant rights organizations from all over the city, has been advocating for over a decade to expand municipal voting rights to include non-citizen New Yorkers.
More than half of the members of the City Council have voiced their support for the campaign, and Council Member Danny Dromm sponsored an early version of a bill that would grant the right to vote to city residents regardless of federal citizenship. Non-citizens currently represent about 18 percent of the population, which means that there are over one million people who could become eligible to vote if this initiative succeeds.
As new and exciting as noncitizen voting sounds, it was actually common in the U.S. during the nineteenth century. The practice peaked in 1875, when it was legal in 22 states, and then declined in the early twentieth century. In the last 25 years more than 30 towns, cities, and states have explored, proposed or passed some form of noncitizen voting.
But with this legislation, New York City is poised to become the first city since 1826 to grant full voting rights to non-citizens in all municipal elections. CPD is thrilled to be part of this historic campaign.
In early August, CPD partner Working Partnerships USA delivered another victory with the expansion of the Santa Clara County’s living wage law that passed earlier this year.
Now, 17,000 county employees as well as the county’s subcontracted workers already covered will receive $19/hour, earned sick time and predictable, flexible schedules with access to additional hours for part-time workers.
The Silicon Valley campaign coordinated by WPUSA has also seen some union victories with the bus drivers of tech companies like Google and Facebook voting to unionize with the Teamsters. Regularly, those bus drivers are saddled with grueling 15 hour days and unpaid split shifts. This essentially means they only get paid for eight hours of work and never see their families. This has been covered extensively including in the NY Times.
The Center for Popular Democracy along with other national partners is committed to building support for the Movement for Black Lives. We saw this support realized last month in the planning and facilitation of two major convenings which brought movement activists together to envision the movement’s trajectory and future.
#Law4BlackLives was a two-day gathering of lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers from across the country to engage in conversations about how to build a world where #BlackLivesMatter. Held at Riverside Church and Columbia University in Harlem, NY, policy makers and advocates engaged in strategic discussions about the place of the law in supporting and strengthening the current movement towards liberation. Marbre Stahly-Butts, Deputy Director of Racial Justice at the Center for Popular Democracy, co-moderated the opening plenary panel, “The State of Our Movement” as well as a panel on local policy reform. In the opening plenary, grassroots organizers from Los Angeles to Ferguson and Madison to New York City reflected on the current state of the movement and spoke to the urgency of building the power of the #BlackLives Matter movement with lawyers and legal advocates.
The Movement for Black Lives Convening was held in the last week of July in Cleveland, Ohio. Over 1,300 Black organizers, advocates, artists, community members and media makers gathered in Cleveland to build community and engage in strategic discussions about how to continue to build and grow the ongoing movement for racial justice. The convening included three days of panels, a People’s Assembly, a healing space, a freedom school and trips to a local urban farm and community center. The conversations focused on how to support the groundswell of energy and enthusiasm for transformation inspired by the brave tenacity of young Black activists from Ferguson, Baltimore and beyond. The convening also had a series of strategic discussions about how to leverage the power of the current movement into concrete cultural, political and social change.
A number of Center for Popular Democracy partners traveled from far and wide to attend. A delegation from Rise-Up Georgia traveled by bus from Atlanta to Cleveland to bring members to the convening. Additionally, members of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Organization for Black Struggle and Make the Road New York attended.
The Center for Popular Democracy continues to work with members of the movement to support national coordination and organizing around these issues and to build on the momentum of these convenings.
Last Thursday, only three weeks before a monumental interest rate decision by the Fed, CPD and Fed Up activists went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to make sure that the voices of working families and communities of color play a central role in the deliberations of our nation’s central bank. The campaign delivered 119,000 signatures to Fed officials, calling on them to prioritize wage growth and job creation.
While Fed officials held their annual policy symposium, over 100 low-wage workers, organizers, and economists from every one of the Fed’s 12 regions around the country joined CPD and Fed Up for our own alternative policy conference called Whose Recovery? A National Convening on Inequality, Race, and the Federal Reserve. As the Huffington Post put it, “the size of Fed Up’s delegation of activists and presence of prominent economists—including Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz—attests to the rapid growth of a once-unlikely campaign that began just a year ago.”
The Federal Reserve is the nation’s most important economic policymaking body. But for too long, only the voices of Wall Street bankers and corporate executives have reached inside its marble walls. Over the past 12 months, that has finally begun to change. In November, Fed Up met with Fed Chair Janet Yellin, Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, and Governors Lael Brainard and Jerombe Powell. Since then, Fed Up coalition partners and their members have sat down for extensive meetings with six of the Fed’s 12 regional presidents—in Boston, New York, Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City, and San Francisco. On Friday, the new presidents of the Philadelphia and Cleveland Feds also agreed to meet as well, and we’re in discussions with the remaining four. Meetings, of course, are only the first step: after that, we need to see the Fed adopt policies that create genuine full employment for all.
You can view more photos from this year’s convening on our Flickr page.
The Fair Workweek campaign has been working tirelessly to end the brutal practice of on-call scheduling at retailers across the country.
Since the NYS Attorney General took action in April and the San Francisco Retail Worker Bill of Rights went into effect in July, local and state legislation has taken off and major retailers that include the Gap, Abercrombie and Fitch, Williams-Sonoma and Victoria’s Secret have publicly announced they are ending their traditional on-call scheduling policy. Emboldened by this progress, more and more worker-leaders are speaking out in the media. An op-ed written by a Gap employee and Minnesoata NOC member was published just a week before Gap made its announcement to reform its on-call scheduling policy. Now, we are working with Minnesota Gap Inc. workers and NOC on an online petition that calls for more scheduling reforms.
CPD played a critical role in making the Attorney General probe possible and building enough pressure to compel this kind of sweeping reform. We are still assessing how many thousands of workers will no longer be required to be available without compensation.
Over the past year, CPD, working closely with our partner organization Make the Road New York, has supported the launch of new sister organizations: Make the Road Connecticut (MRCT), Make the Road New Jersey (MRNJ) and Make the Road Pennsylvania (MRPA). The organizations are based in Bridgeport, CT; Elizabeth, NJ; and Reading, PA, respectively.
In this short time, these new organizations have made tremendous headway, bringing low-income and working class Latino residents of their respective cities together to support or launch campaigns to secure progressive policy change on immigrant rights and worker justice.
In Connecticut, MRCT has anchored state efforts to secure fair scheduling protections for CT workers, and members of the organization recently hosted a highly successful BBQ, which drew over 80 community residents, and a visit from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who pledged to work with the organization to make the changes our communities need to see. MRCT has also been working with CT Working Families to maintain the momentum on the women’s economic agenda in CT. They organized a community delegation in support of a Make the Road member, Dina Laura, who was terminated from her job because of her leadership to advance the movement for working families.
In New Jersey, members and staff have been knocking on neighbors' doors to secure support for a statewide earned sick days ballot initiative, and have secured a vote from their county-elected body in support of drivers’ licenses for immigrants in New Jersey, making them the first county in New Jersey to do so.
Finally, in Pennsylvania, members have mobilized to support statewide budget fights and a campaign to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and have provided leadership to a local fight to secure municipal IDs for residents of Reading, PA.
CPD is proud to support these local leaders and our powerful partner organization Make the Road New York, as they forge powerful new capacity in places where it is sorely needed. Si se puede!
By Katrina Gamble, Director of Civic Engagement and Politics
In this country being Black and poor means living in constant struggle. The commodification and dehumanization of Black bodies is rooted in the history of this country—from the blood-stained red clay of Southern slavery to wealth built from cheap cotton and textile manufacturing in the North.
Ten years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and flooded the city of New Orleans the consequences of a long history of institutionalized racism were on full display. More than 1,800 lives were lost and tens of thousands of people were displaced.
As the flood waters rose and we saw grandmothers, mothers with babies, and, indeed, whole families left abandoned on their rooftops or out in the sweltering Gulf Coast heat – it shocked the country. Perhaps, because many had been lulled into the belief that the civil rights movement and the growing Black middle-class meant we’d somehow escaped the murderous grasp of racism and white supremacy in the United States.
But there it was exposed – a wound that never quite healed. Black people in a beloved city were abandoned and made a public spectacle for the world to see. To make matters worse, when Black people went looking for protection and shelter, they were called refugees in their own country. And instead of being rescued, they were met with a militarized occupation.
When you think of natural disasters you think of something unpredictable, but mitigated by some semblance of comfort that emergency evacuation plans, government regulations, and investments in infrastructure are supposed to provide.
Most of us did not know that the levees would break and that New Orleans and other cities across the Gulf Coast would be submerged. But for those of us who have grown up Black and poor in America, living precariously close to disaster is a daily lived experience. So, as Katrina barreled down on New Orleans ten years ago, we certainly could have predicted the impact on the poor Black communities of New Orleans.
In a city where forty percent of Black families lived below the poverty line, and wherenearly 60 percent of those families did not have access to a car, the impact of a storm like Hurricane Katrina was dismayingly predictable for the thousands of Black families living in poverty or at the edge poverty.
Speculators and corporate profiteers stood waiting to take advantage of this moment resulting in both the economic and the physical displacement of many Black residents. From corporate take-over of the school district to destruction of public housing the tradition of profiting off of black trauma continues in New Orleans. Katrina Truth, a website developed by Advancement Project and Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, describes the racial divide in the post-Katrina recovery. Gentrification spurred the removal of public housing down to 2,006 units compared to 12,270 prior to Katrina. Today, nearly 40 percent of residents spend more than half of their income on housing.
As we reflect on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we should focus less on the recovery and more on how we create strong and healthy communities grounded by the voices of the most vulnerable. If we could dream of the communities we want for ourselves and our families what would it look like? My dream would include equitable public community schools responsive to parents, students, and teachers -- not one where Black and brown children are put funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. My dream would mean safe and quality housing for all rather than families displaced and pushed out of their communities by gentrification spurred on by corporate greed. It would mean all families being able to live with dignity and economic security rather than one where nearly 40 percent of children live in poverty. It would mean full employment, fair wages, and fair scheduling for working families rather than the continued exploitation of Black labor.
While these dreams are not yet realized, we continue to resist. And, in doing so, we stand with Gulf Coast Rising and others in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who continue to fight for equitable and sustainable communities.
As you stand in resistance, what is your dream for your community?
On April 22, CPD and leaders from our partner organizations from around the country met with Senator Elizabeth Warren.
We met with Senator Warren because we urgently need more champions among our elected officials to stand with black and brown people on the full range of issues impacting our communities. We also met with the Senator to thank her for her courage and leadership in standing up to big banks and holding corporations accountable around the housing and economic crisis.
Our partners from Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin shared with Senator Warren how their organizations represent communities where immigrant families continue to be separated because of our broken immigration system, where young black and brown people face daily harassment and violence at the hands of police officers, and where the continuous closing of public schools in low-income neighborhoods strips children of opportunities for success.
We shared with the Senator the ways in which she can stand as a champion on these issues through pushing for a reduction in citizenship fees, fighting for community-centered reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and supporting federal legislation that would divest from increased militarization of local law enforcement and instead invest in our families. We also shared with the Senator ideas on how she could work to restore community wealth and curb gentrification.
Senator Warren was incredibly responsive to the concerns we raised and we look forward to continuing to work with her and other champions who will fight for issues that work to fully strengthen our communities and families.