Action Plan

P owerful protests in New Haven, Hamden, West Haven, East Haven, Branford, Woodbridge and other greater New Haven communities over the past two weeks have melded local voices with those nationwide and around the world calling for racial justice. But protest leaders have emphasized again and again that showing up for one rally isn’t enough if you’re serious about change. Here are some ways you can get or stay involved in the coming weeks and months:

Connect with Groups Working to End Racism
Sign up for local organizations’ emails and follow them on Facebook to keep abreast of new events and actions. Groups include Citywide Youth Coalition, Black Lives Matter New Haven, People Against Police Brutality and Hamden Action Now. CT CORE—Organize Now! sends a weekly newsletter of “resources and actions happening from organizers across the state” and is building a mutual aid/community support network “to ensure that folks in the community can request support or offer support and talents to those who can use them.”

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Gain Perspective
Take an Undoing Racism workshop with the Citywide Youth Coalition or any other organization that runs workshops through The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. CWYC runs these two-day workshops about three times a year, with the next ones tentatively slated for August and November. CWYC executive director Addys Castillo says she won’t organize with anyone who hasn’t done this training first. “You can’t get to action until you really internalize how racism affects communities and how racism affects you,” Castillo says, adding that the training is for everyone. “Everyone needs to know this, people of color, black people included. Sometimes we’re not really clear on what racism is.” The workshops set up a common language and a common understanding about racism. “It’s an intense experience, it’s a journey, and to be honest, the real work happens after the workshop,” Castillo says. Follow CWYC on Facebook to find out about upcoming workshops.

The Reverend Jack Perkins Davidson, senior pastor at Spring Glen Church in Hamden, which co-sponsored a June 7 protest with Hamden Action Now, suggests several books and podcasts that he says are particularly good for people who are “new to this work”: How to Be an Antiracist (2019) by Ibram X. Kendi, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018) by Robin DiAngelo, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2017) by Richard Rothstein, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (2014) by Bryan Stevenson (the film version of which has just been released for free on most digital platforms) and Waking Up White (2014) by Debby Irving. Davidson also recommends the podcasts Uncivil and 1619.

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Contact Your Elected Officials
Governor Lamont has told state lawmakers he intends to call a special session to address “police accountability and transparency” as well as issues related to absentee ballots for November’s general election, as long as lawmakers can come up with “a package that has sufficient support in both chambers,” according to a letter he sent to legislative leaders June 9. State senator Gary Winfield (New Haven and West Haven) and state representative Robyn Porter (New Haven and Hamden) are working on that bill, which is expected soon.

Rhonda Caldwell of Hamden Action Now is “asking that everyone independently reach out to your elected officials to get their support of this legislation whether they’re Republican or Democrat.” HAN and other organizations will send their members information and suggestions on who to contact, she says. “This will just be the beginning,” Caldwell adds. “We just have to have something on the table so we can actually have something on record, but we already know this isn’t going to be a sprint. It’s a marathon.” You can contact your alderperson and Mayor Justin Elicker to press for change at the city level.

Vote
That message has been repeated loud and clear by speakers in recent days. The Connecticut primary is August 11, and the general election is November 3. Register to vote, or find out whether and where you’re already registered. Connecticut now allows Election Day voter registration at the polls as well. Caldwell hopes voters will support “the candidates that are going to support police accountability.”

Keep Showing Up
Show up at future protests, Davidson says, but show up for the “boring” stuff, too. “Having the same conversation with your white friends over and over again,” attending police commission meetings, zoning meetings, board of education meetings, digging into “minute lines in budgets that you don’t even realize have massive effects on racial justice” all take persistence. And as you persist, he says, be willing to grow.

The Citywide Youth Coalition started back in 1976 as an ad-hoc group of service providers, Castillo says. All were adults. Eventually, “we thought, you know, that adults have more to lose than to gain by bumping up against the system,” she says. So the group pivoted to including youth in the process, and “our organizing took off,” Castillo says. “Young people who know their power, who have an analysis—… They’re not asking for permission. They’re demanding.”

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image, featuring marchers at the June 5 New Haven protest, provided courtesy of Leigh Busby.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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