Opinion: New York City Nonprofit Leaders of Color Call for Action and Reform
by Steve Choi, Frankie Miranda, Jo-Ann Yoo and Jose Ortiz, Jr.
New York City is a world city and a pace-setter. It is a beacon of hope to many and a space where creativity flourishes. For New Yorkers, our diversity in many forms — race, national origin, ethnicity, sexual identity or orientation, religious or spiritual beliefs, industries, and occupations — is our greatest asset.
Recent unrest in our city, across our nation, and around the world is a reminder of the fact that our nation remains a work in progress. We are a nation founded on imperfections. Too often, these unaddressed imperfections manifest themselves in the form of the degradation, humiliation, and even death of Black people by those who are sworn to serve and protect.
As leaders of Asian, Black, Latino and Middle Eastern descent, we say this is intolerable. The lives of Black people matter. Being Black is not a crime and peacefully protesting criminal behavior of some in law enforcement does not make us anti-police. While we support the work of our police officers who keep our communities vibrant and safe, we cannot stand by idly while innocent Black people are killed or abused by those who act unlawfully.
The right to assemble, dissent, and peacefully protest is a fundamental tenet of American democracy. True patriots are those who challenge our democracy to be all that it can be.
As leaders who believe in the freedoms codified in the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we also go on record as deploring and condemning the looting of business establishments by vandals and opportunists. Whether mom-and-pop stores, large corporations, or somewhere in between, businesses are vital to our economy. Large, medium, or small, they are at the core of what makes New York City a world class city.
Like all New Yorkers, we look forward to a return to normalcy. However, we do not seek a return to injustice, inequity, unfairness, marginalization, hatred, privilege, or contempt.
We call on our local, state, and national leaders to protect our rights, create opportunities that will jump-start our economy, and move us closer to the more perfect union spoken of by the Founding Fathers. As was the case nearly 250 years ago, we call for strong leadership from our government. We seek leadership that is truly representative of all people, not just the powerful few. With strong and representative leadership we can create and implement meaningful policies that address longstanding structural impediments.
As Americans and New Yorkers committed to improving the quality of life for Black people and other historically marginalized populations, we demand that:
• Black New Yorkers and their allies are provided space to raise their voices and attack injustice;
• systems that perpetuate poverty and stifle economic freedoms be dismantled; and
• opportunities are created to enable those who have historically been left behind to flourish and thrive.
To make these demands a reality, we call for:
• Changes in police training, practices, culture, and tactics and
• the end to the unwarranted surveillance of political activists and community advocates.
• Increased access to city, state, and federal contracting opportunities for community-based organizations and small businesses, in particular those owned by people of color, women, veterans, or other marginalized groups
• an end to tax incentives that disrupt the social fiber of low-income communities, foster displacement, and undermine small businesses; and
• greater support for the establishment, management, and growth of worker-owned cooperatives, especially in communities that have historically had low rates of business establishment by neighborhood residents.
• An expansion of the AmeriCorps, City Year, Jobs Corps, GEAR-UP, and TRIO programs to create additional education, skills training, and employment opportunities for New York’s historically marginalized populations;
• increased federal and private funding for “shovel ready” city or metro New York area-based infrastructure improvement or enhancement projects that will create employment opportunities that provide living wages for our city’s low-income residents; and
• reforms in federal Opportunity Zone legislation that increase capital access for low-income New York City communities without draining those communities of needed tax resources or providing additional tax relief for those who already enjoy numerous tax benefits
It is long overdue that our communities’ needs and demands be prioritized, and it is time for our City to make the deep systemic investments in our communities that we have been calling for far too long. When we have an honest dialogue about how we got here, we will dismantle the system that perpetuates our poverty and disenables our economic freedoms. When we are provided space to use our voice and attack injustice, we will make good on the promise of America for those who were not considered Americans when our country was founded, and for the generations of Americans who have been left behind. Only then can we rebuild.
For all of our brothers and sisters who have and continue to fight against racial, social and economic injustice.
Steve Choi, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition
Janelle Farris, President & Executive Director, Brooklyn Community Services
Damyn Kelly, JD, PhD, President & CEO, Lutheran Social Services of NY
Frankie Miranda, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hispanic Federation
Jose Ortiz, Jr., Executive Director, New York City Employment and Training Coalition
Eileen Torres, Executive Director, BronxWorks
Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation
*Sudha Acharya, Executive Director, South Asian Council for Social Services
Diya Basu-Sen, Executive Director, Sapna NYC, Inc.
Esther Benjamin, CEO and Executive Director, World Education Services
Carla Brown, Executive Director, Charles A Walburg Multi-Service Organization, Inc
Jessica Clemente, Chief Executive Director, We Stay/Nos Quedamos, Inc.
Robert Cordero, Executive Director, Grand Street Settlement
Joan Oby Dawson, PhD, Chairperson of the Board, Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement
Karen Dixon, Executive Director, Harlem Dowling-West Side Center
Kevin Ervin, Executive Director, Change for Kids
Sabrina Evans-Ellis, Executive Director, Youth Development Institute
Lakythia Ferby, Executive Director, STRIVE NY
Jeehae Fischer, Executive Director, The Korean American Family Service Center
Debbian Fletcher-Blake, Chief Executive Officer, Vocational Instruction Project Community Services, Inc.
Ingrid Floyd, Executive Director, Iris House, Inc.
Margaret Fung, Executive Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
Peter Gee, Interim Executive Director, The Door
Lisa Gold, Executive Director, Asian American Arts Alliance
William Goodloe, President & Chief Executive Officer, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity
Anita Gundanna, Co-Executive Director, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families
Sunil Gupta, Dean, Adult Continuing Education & Workforce Development, Borough of Manhattan Community College
LaShawn Henry, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Strategies of New York Inc
Paloma Hernandez, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Health Plan Inc.
Wayne Ho, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chinese-American Planning Council
Jukay Hsu, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, Pursuit
Marwa Janini, Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York
Carine Jocelyn, Chief Executive Officer, Diaspora Community Services
Dominique R. Jones, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club of Harlem
Roderick Jones, Ed.D, Executive Director, Goddard Riverside
Amaha Kassa, Executive Director, African Communities Together
Gabrielle Kersainr, Executive Director, Brooklyn-Queens-Long Island Area Health Education Center
Sanjana Khan, Executive Director, Laal NYC
Jeremy Kohomban, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Children’s Village
Harvey Lawrence, President and Chief Executive Officer, BMS Health and Wellness Centers
Hong Shing Lee, Executive Director, CMP
Linda Lee, President & Chief Executive Officer, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc.
Mae Lee, Executive Director, Chinese Progressive Association
Regina Lie-Seid, Executive Director, Chinese Methodist Center Corporation
Maria Lizardo, Executive Director, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC)
Rosemary Lopez, Executive Director, AIDS Center of Queens County
Derrick A. Lovett, President and Chief Executive Officer, MBD Community Housing Corp.
Vanessa Luna, Co-Founder, Chief Program Officer, ImmSchools
Glenn D. Magpantay, Executive Director, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
Marissa Martin, Executive Director, The Advocacy Institute
Yesenia Mata, Executive Director, La Colmena
Kavita Mehra, Executive Director, Sakhi for South Asian Women
Mari G. Millet, President & Chief Executive Officer, Morris Heights Health Center
Paul Moore, Deputy Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer, Morrisania Revitalization Corp
Haydee Morales, Executive Director, Casita Maria
Dr. Danielle R. Moss, Chief Executive Officer, Oliver Scholars
Linda Oalican, Executive Director, Damayan Migrant Workers Association
Reuben Ogbonna, Executive Director, The Marcy Lab School
Toyin Omolola, Chief Executive Officer, Dsi International Inc
John Park, Executive Director, MinKwon Center for Community Action
Marjorie D Parker, President and Chief Executive Officer, JobsFirstNYC
Liliana Polo-McKenna, Chief Executive Officer, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT)
Malcolm A. Punter, Ed.D, MBA, President & Chief Executive Officer, Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc. (“HCCI”)
Jocelynne Rainey, Chief Executive Officer, Getting Out and Staying Out
Marble Reagon, Executive Director, Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement
Zareta Ricks, Executive Director, Opening Act
Janet Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer, SoHarlem, Inc.
Jerelyn Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer, The Knowledge House
Rosita Romero, Executive Director, Dominican Women’s Development Center
Nathaly Rubio-Torio, Executive Director, Voces Latinas
Jeannette K. Ruffins, Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director, West End Residences
Marrisa Senteno, NDWA NY Chapter Co-Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Sharon Sewell-Fairman, Executive Director, Workforce Professionals Training Institute
Frederick Shack, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Pathways
Nikita Sheth, Chief Executive Officer, Womankind
Yvonne Stennett, Executive Director, Community League of the Heights
Jennifer Sun, Co-Executive Director, Asian Americans for Equality
Bishop Mitchell G Taylor, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Upbound & Center of Hope Int’l
Robert Taylor, Executive Director, Youth Action YouthBuild East Harlem (YAYB)
Joseph Turner, President and Chief Executive Officer, Exponents and Co-Chairperson, NYS Harm Reduction Association
Christopher Watler, Chief External Affairs Officer, Center for Employment Opportunity
Kimberly Watson, Chief Operating Officer, Graham Windham
Andre White, Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer, Phipps Neighborhoods
Angela Williams, Executive Director, I Have A Dream – NY Foundation
Thomas Yu, Co- Executive Director, Asian Americans For Equality
Lourdes Zapata, President & Chief Executive Officer, South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO)