Tag Archive | "activism"

Writer, Poet and Activist Alexis De Veaux to Sign Latest Work “Yabo” at Canio’s in Sag Harbor

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By Tessa Raebeck

Poet, writer and activist Alexis De Veaux will be at Canio's Books in Sag Harbor at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 14.

Poet, writer and activist Alexis De Veaux will be at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 14.

Award-winning author Alexis De Veaux has two critical concerns: making the racial and sexual experiences of black female characters central and disrupting boundaries between forms.

In her latest fiction work, “Yabo,” Ms. De Veaux explores those concerns in a collection of prose and poetry. The activist author will be on hand Saturday, June 14, at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor to read excerpts, sign books and celebrate her new publication.

“O yes, there are other heres. Simultaneous to this one,” reads the prelude. “Echoes. Or did you think the story you were told, the story you grew up believing, repeating, about the past, present, and the future—and the commas you see here separating those stories—was all there is?”

As a writer for Essence Magazine in 1990, Ms. De Veaux was the first North American to interview Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison. She has traveled extensively as an artist and lecturer and has received multiple literary awards for her biographies of Billie Holiday and Audre Lorde.

Ms. De Veaux will read from “Yabo” and sign copies of her book at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 14 at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street in Sag Harbor.

Pierson Middle School Student Calls on Classmates to Stick Up for Others in Anti-Bullying Film

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By Tessa Raebeck 

Bullying has come to the forefront of the national dialogue in recent years, but it’s always been a constant among seventh graders.

“We really wanted to take a stand against bullying,” said Olivia Corish, a seventh grader at Pierson Middle School, whose latest short film, “A Cry for Help,” has made waves as a statement against both being a bully and being a bystander.

Through the film, which was shot entirely on her iPhone and edited using Final Cut Pro, Olivia called on her classmates to be “upstanders,” or someone who “steps in and says you’ve gotta stop,” she said Tuesday.

In the film, shot at Pierson, a young girl played by Anna Schiavoni, Olivia’s best friend and go-to lead actor, traverses the school day as best she can, but is frequently intercepted by a herd of bullies as she navigates the halls.

Playing the “victim,” Anna’s character struggles when she has a sign saying “Loser” taped to her back, is not picked for a sports team in gym class and is first forgotten and later ridiculed when another girl is passing out invitations to her party. As she tries to get through the day, the victim is laughed at, pushed or completely isolated. Even taking a sip of water is dangerous, as a passerby shoves her head into the fountain.

Shot in black and white, the YouTube film is reminiscent of the silent films of the 1920s. There is no dialogue, only sad music, “I’m in Here” by Sia Furler and Sam Dixon.

In one scene, the victim is putting on lip gloss in the bathroom at Pierson as one of the bullies looks on. A dialogue frame pops onto the screen with words said by the bully, “Why are you wearing lip gloss? It’s not going to make you look any prettier.”

The decision to keep the film silent was in part logistical, as play practice was going on at Pierson while the film was shot, and audio “can be really hard,” Olivia said, but it was also symbolic.

“We also thought that our video shouldn’t be dominated by words. It’s kind of the small things that hurt,” Olivia said. “It’s the silent things—like maybe someone just bumping into you or laughing behind your back—and we thought that that really didn’t need any words to describe it.”

The turning point in the film comes when the lip gloss bully is confronted by the “hero,” played by Gabriella Knab, who serves as the story’s upstander.

The inspiration for the hero upstander came from a tolerance and anti-bullying conference Olivia and other Pierson students attended at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove.

Every year, the center invites student leaders from across Long Island to participate in the half-day conference, at which they hear from a keynote speaker, then break into small groups to exchange ideas and action plans of how to combat bullying and prejudice in their schools.

“We try to be [upstanders],” Anna said Tuesday.

“As much as possible,” added Olivia.

“A Cry for Help” premiered May 10 at the inaugural Young Filmmakers’ Festival at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. In the weeks since, it has received 135 views on YouTube and has been widely shared by Sag Harbor parents on Facebook.

Anna and Olivia, however, are more concerned with the tangible response to the film’s message they have seen in school.

“They have really loved it,” Olivia said of her classmates. “I think it really inspired a lot of them to take a stand against the small bullying that happens.”

Anna said she too has been inspired by her role as the victim in the film.

After a school year of watching a certain bully in her class pick on another student, stealing his food and being generally unpleasant, she decided to step in. Anna asked the victim whether he enjoys having his food stolen, to which he replied no (perhaps unsurprisingly).

“He was like, ‘No, not really, but I think it’s just one of those things that you let happen,’” she recalled. “And I’m like, ‘No. You’re not supposed to let that happen.’”

During the class period in which his food is traditionally stolen, the day Anna spoke up, the boy instead reportedly said to his bully, “Actually, I think I want to eat my food today.”

As of Tuesday, the bully was no longer asking him for food.

“And now it stops, like in my film,” Olivia said of her friend’s story. “Just like that.”

 

FILM URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=An_ZDfsr_pg

The Neo-Political Cowgirls Dance for Justice at Bay Street Theatre

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Last year's performance of Eve Ensler's "V-Day, One Billion Rising" by the Neo-Political Cowgirls at Bay Street Theatre. Photo by Tom Kochie.

Last year’s performance of Eve Ensler’s “V-Day, One Billion Rising” by the Neo-Political Cowgirls at Bay Street Theatre. Photo by Tom Kochie.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Neo-Political Cowgirls return to Bay Street Thursday, February 27 with their rendition of Eve Ensler’s, “V-Day, One Billion Rising.” Eve Ensler, creator of “The Vagina Monologues,” started the worldwide event as a way for people to rise up, speak out and dance together to demand justice for women and girls who are victims of violence.

Director Kate Mueth and the Neo-Political Cowgirls are again partnering with The Retreat and the Bay Street Theatre in the thought-provoking performance aimed at empowering women through self-expression.

Renditions of the dance, which is largely improvisational, will be performed around the world. Those looking to join the global movement are welcome to attend an hour-long dance rehearsal prior to the event, at 5:30 p.m. in the theatre. No experience is necessary and men, women and children are all invited.

Those less inclined to dance are welcome to come to the main performance at 7:30 p.m., which includes music, spoken word and, naturally, dance.

With the slogan, “Rise, Release, Dance!” One Billion Rising for Justice is a global call to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Through transformative dance, survivors of violence are encouraged to release their pain and rise up against their tormenters. Dances usually end with the dancers’ arms spread wide, their head held high and mouth open in a message of release and renewal. In 2013, feminist activists in 207 countries participated in the Valentine’s Day event.

The Neo-Political Cowgirls’ staging of “V-Day, One Billion Rising,” will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 13 at the Bay Street Theatre, Corner of Bay and Main Streets in Sag Harbor. A suggested donation of $20 will benefit The Retreat. For more information, email Kate Mueth at gladmueth@aol.com or call the box office at 631.329.7130.

 

Charlie King Celebrates the Life of Friend and Folk Music Legend Pete Seeger

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Musician Charlie King (courtesy of Ella Engel-Snow).

By Tessa Raebeck

In honor of his friend and fellow traveler, the late folk music legend and social activist Pete Seeger, Charlie King will perform at a community concert Friday, February 21 at 7 p.m. the Windmill Village in East Hampton.

A musical storyteller and political satirist, King covers folk music from two centuries and four continents. His original music celebrates the extraordinary in the lives of ordinary people. King has recorded well over a dozen albums since he first came onto the scene in 1976.

His music supports peace, human rights and environmental advocacy. He has been honored with several humanitarian awards, including a 1999 Sacco-Vanzetti Social Justice Award following a nomination by Seeger.

“I try to cover a broad emotional landscape in my concerts,” said King. “The stories I collect and the songs I write take the listener on a journey of humor, heartache and hope. What I most value in a song is the way it helps us see an old reality in a totally new light.”

Seeger called King, “one of the best songwriters of our time.”

A spearheading figure of American folk music, Seeger died January 27 in Manhattan at the age of 94. Always using his music to advocate social change, he performed everywhere from labor rallies to the inaugural concert for Barack Obama on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

King will perform a community concert Friday, February 21 at Windmill Village II, 219 Accabonac Road in East Hampton. There is a suggested donation of $15 and all proceeds will benefit the Whalebone Village Apartment’s Parenting Program. Complimentary snacks, beverages and wine will be provided.

Hundreds of Protestors Gather at “No Cull” Rally in East Hampton to Protest Government Plan to Kill Deer

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Protest organizers concert promoter Ron Delsener and East Hampton Group for Wildlife founder Bill Crain at the "No Cull" rally in East Hampton Village Saturday, January 17. (Michael Heller photo).

Protest organizers, concert promoter Ron Delsener and East Hampton Group for Wildlife founder Bill Crain, adress the crowd at the “No Cull” rally in East Hampton Village Saturday, January 17. (Michael Heller photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Some three hundred people gathered in East Hampton Saturday in opposition to the village’s plan to bring federal sharpshooters in to cull the deer herd. Hunters and wildlife activists joined together at the “No Cull” rally, organized by the East Hampton Group for Wildlife and supported by hunting organizations like Hunters for Deer and Long Island Archers.

Chanting “What do we want? Stop the cull? When do we want it? Now!” demonstrators, some who had driven hours to reach the village, marched from the Hook Mill in East Hampton to Herrick Park.

East Hampton Village and Southold Town have agreed to a Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) program that would bring USDA sharpshooters to the East End to cull the deer herd, which many local residents and farmers say is overpopulated and destructive. LIFB executive director Joe Gergela estimates 1,500 to 2,000 deer would be killed during the 40-day cull.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has not yet issued a permit for the cull (see sidebar).

Proponents of the plan say the deer population, with no natural predators, has outgrown the available food supply and natural environment on the East End. Deer, they say, create hazardous conditions on roads, carry tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and negatively impact the local agriculture industry.

East Hampton Town agreed to the program in December under the last administration, but new town supervisor Larry Cantwell said last week he is unsure whether the town will still take part.

The program is funded by a $200,000 state grant LIFB received for deer management and would be one of the largest removals of deer ever undertaken by the government.

The hundreds who gathered Saturday are calling on the LIFB to stop the cull and for all municipalities to withdraw their support. East Hampton Village has committed $15,000 to the farm bureau and Southold Town has pledged $25,000. Those funds support sharpshooters coming into public lands, but the cull can continue on private land without official support from local governments.

In December, The Group for Wildlife, along with 13 individual plaintiffs and the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, filed suit against East Hampton town, village and the town trustees.

“We’re going to sue each and every town or village that even thinks about entering into this plan,” Wendy Chamberlain, a Bridgehampton resident who helped organize the rally, told the crowd Saturday.

“It gets better,” she added, “We’re also going to sue the heinous USDA!”

Despite the uncommon collaboration of hunters and animal rights advocates, the rally was peaceful aside from one disruption, when concert promoter Ron Delsener shouted at East Hampton school board member Patricia Hope.

Hope was passing out flyers supporting immuno-contraception as a more peaceful way to cull the herd than the “wholesale slaughter of does and fawns” when Delsener, who has a house in East Hampton and is funding the anti-cull lawsuit, yelled, “This lady wants to kill the deer!”

“I don’t want to kill the deer,” Hope replied, moving away from Delsener.

Group for Wildlife founder and Montauk resident Bill Crain encouraged the crowd to write letters and call their government officials to “let them know we will not stand for this.”

“They don’t have a chance of re-election if they are going to pursue this barbaric, murderous slaughter,” Crain said.

Many protestors dressed in hunting gear and held signs with slogans like, “Cull the board not the herd,” “Slaughter, savagery, stupidity,” and “Deer epidemic NOT proven.”

One sign said, “Are the swans next?” referring to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) new proposal to kill or capture all mute swans by 2025. Another had a photo of fawns and the words, “Are you going to kill my mommy?”

“They don’t deserve to die,” Sag Harbor’s Anne Plucis shouted to passing drivers, “They’re not the reason for this.”

Plucis said mice and rats are to blame for the prevalence of tick-borne illnesses, not deer.

Mike Tessitore, a former Sag Harbor Village policeman who is a member of Hunters for Deer, called the proposed plan “a slap in the face to the community, as well as the hunters on Long Island and in New York State.”

“If hunters were given the same opportunity as USDA in killing deer they would be successful,” said Tessitore.

The LIFB has said all meat would go to Long Island Harvest to be processed and sent to food banks, but with a cost of $50 to $80 to process each corpse, many of the cull’s opponents are skeptical the meat will be properly used.

Tessitore called the plan “$250,000 to $500,000 to throw deer in dumpsters.”

“Hunters,” he added, “actually use the meat to provide for their family and friends – and we do it for free.”

Local residents remain divided on whether or not the federal sharpshooters should be welcomed. Usually allied, many farmers and hunters are on different sides. Some wildlife advocates favor culling the herd, saying deer overpopulation negatively affects the habitats of other animals and that being shot is more humane than starving to death.

Those wildlife activists opposed to the cull, however, were in clear view Saturday.

Calling the plan “cruel and inhumane,” ARF co-founder Sony Schotland said immunization worked to control the population in several other areas. East Hampton resident Brooke Spencer circulated a petition against the cull through the crowd.

“I’m here,” East Hampton resident Elizabeth Mensch said, “because I just think this whole situation is extremely unethical and inhumane. I believe they have every right to be here and we have no right to say if something dies or lives.”

K.K. Shapiro, Mensch’s longtime friend and former classmate in East Hampton, added, “If you really have a problem with wildlife, move to the city.”

Southampton Rally Remembers Sandy Hook Victims, Protests Lack of Federal Legislation a Year After Tragedy

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Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop's Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday.

Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

A year after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of 20 first graders and six school employees, New York State has some of the toughest laws on gun control in the country.

But with no legislative action yet taken on the federal level, groups advocating for gun control are continuing their fight for safety laws.

Chanting “We will not forget!” members of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, States United Against Gun Violence and Organizing for Action, an advocacy group supporting President Obama’s legislative agenda, held a Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally outside Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office Saturday afternoon.

Decked in hats, gloves and posters, a group of 17 advocates for gun control braved the snow to honor the victims, survivors and families of the Sandy Hook tragedy, commemorate the actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Congressman Bishop in the past year and call on legislators — particularly at the federal level — to do more.

Sue Hornik from States United Against Gun Violence and Sag Harbor’s Jackie Hilly, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, spoke at the rally. They called for closing background check “loopholes,” banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.

“While sadness can be unbearable,” Hilly told the crowd, “it should also serve to embolden us to speak out against gun violence.”

The event marked the one-year anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook. After Hilly and Hornik spoke, those in attendance read the names of the 26 victims, along with personal anecdotes, and rang a bell after each reading.

Ann Howard from Cutchogue read the name of Dylan Hockley, a six-year-old killed in his classroom who had “beautiful eyes and a mischievous grin” and “a love of bouncing on trampolines.”

Hilly thanked Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state to take decisive action after Newtown. The AR-15, the assault weapon used at Sandy Hook, can no longer legally be purchased in New York. Banning such weapons was one of the provisions of the New York SAFE Act, which was proposed by Governor Cuomo and adopted by the state legislature in January, less than a month after the tragedy.

“Now with the new regulations that were adopted in New York State,” explained Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., “if we don’t have the most stringent gun control measures, we’re in the top two.”

State Senator Kenneth LaValle agreed New York has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation.

“Right after Sandy Hook I think there was a sense of purpose, because young people were killed — senseless murder — in an elementary school by an individual who had mental health issues,” said LaValle, “ and indeed in every one of these mass shootings, the shooter has a mental health issue.”RaebeckSandyHookRally2

The SAFE Act established provisions to help identify individuals with mental illnesses and correlate reporting of such illnesses with reporting of firearm ownership. Under the new law, a gun owner living with someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness has a responsibility to make sure his or her guns are not available to that person.

“That’s kind of a good balancing, we believe, between rights and responsibilities,” said Hilly, “because you know, the other side is always talking about rights and rarely are they mentioning responsibilities.”

Additionally, mental health professionals are now required by law to alert police if they believe one of their patients is likely to hurt themselves or others — and that patient has a gun permit.

The SAFE Act also standardized the time period for renewal of permits across the state. Previously, Long Island and Westchester required gun owners to renew their permits every five years and New York City had a three-year requirement. Now, all of New York — including areas upstate that required renewal less frequently — has a maximum five-year permit renewal requirement (New York City can keep their three-year restriction). This sanction requires permit holders to reaffirm the facts of their permit, for example that they have not been convicted of a felony or diagnosed with a mental illness.

The SAFE Act enhanced the breadth and prevalence of background checks, limited the capacity of magazines from 10 rounds to seven and expanded the definition of assault weapons, such as the AR-15.

The law also aims to end the anonymous purchasing of large stocks of ammunition on the Internet. Rather than going online and having weapons delivered to your home with no regulation, ammunition must now be delivered to a gun dealer, who will then ask for identification (a permit is not required for ammunition).

Although the SAFE Act is a huge victory for gun control advocates, proponents say the state measures are limited by the lack of similar federal legislation. Although criminals are faced with these restrictions in New York, they can easily travel across state lines to purchase weapons and ammunition.

Since Sandy Hook, according to Congressman Bishop, on the federal level, “the short answer is nothing has happened.”

Of a number of bills introduced in the House of Representatives to help provide for gun safety, “none of them have moved at all,” said Bishop, who sponsored most of them.

In the Senate, an effort to bring up a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for people who wish to purchase firearms failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for it to be considered.

“You can still go on the Internet and buy firearms,” Bishop said Monday, “you can still go on the Internet and buy mass quantities of ammunition, you can still purchase a gun at a gun show without undergoing a background check, so basic things that ought to be put in place are not being put in place.”

“It pretty much breaks down on party lines,” added the Democratic congressman, “Democrats want to pass gun safety legislation, Republicans refuse to.”

Bishop said much of the proposed legislation has bipartisan support, “but the leadership of the House of Representatives refuses to move any of them.”

“I don’t want to say that there’s no hope,” he said, “but I do think that the track record of the house thus far does not give cause for optimism.”