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Power Coalition: Redistricting Must Ensure Maps That Look Like the State

For Immediate Release

Jan. 31, 2022

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Power Coalition for Equity & Justice is continuing efforts to ensure an equitable and fair redistricting process. Today, it called on elected leaders to ensure new maps that are representative of Louisiana. With the redistricting process in Louisiana set to begin on Feb. 1, the organization has announced a series of events to engage voters and legislators alike.

After hosting a multicity roadshow in fall 2021, where organizational leaders engaged voters around redistricting, the Power Coalition held a series of group texting events. Titled Texting Tuesdays Power Hour, the weekly sessions enable voters to engage one another and elected leaders about redistricting. The virtual sessions, which began in mid-January, are held on Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m. CST. To date, advocates have contacted 7,000 people through the Texting Tuesdays Power Hour events.

Additionally, the Power Coalition will convene voters at the state capitol on Feb. 1 and 2 to urge legislators to create two minority-majority seats and ensure that the new maps are more representative of the 40% people of color in the state. At the conclusion of the Feb. 1 convening, where 200 people are registered to attend, there will be a 4:00 p.m. CST press conference at the Louisiana State Capitol, 900 North Third Street in Baton Rouge. Reporters must register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/power-mobilization-redistricting-advocacy-day-tickets-243380847667.

“Our intention is to help legislators understand and appreciate the desires of voters,” said Ashley K. Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition for Equity & Justice. “We need elected leaders to ensure all voters have every opportunity to be heard. Legislators must ensure new maps are representative of the demographics of the state. Elected officials cannot ignore communities of interest that are strongly influenced by communities of color.”

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The Power Coalition for Equity & Justice works to build power and voice in traditionally disenfranchised communities across Louisiana. It is a coalition of groups united around a shared mission of organizing in impacted communities, educating, and turning out voters, and fighting for policies that create a more equitable and just system in our state.

Congregation Beth Israel: We Are Our Best Historical Record A Message on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

For Immediate Release

Jan. 26, 2022

 

Congregation Beth Israel: We Are Our Best Historical Record

A Message on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

 

COLLEYVILLE, Texas – On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, members of Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) urged the nation to do more to combat antisemitism. Anna Salton Eisen, founder of CBI and author of the forthcoming book “Pillar of Salt: A Daughter’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust;” and Michael Finfer, president of CBI, released the following statement:

 

“My mother turned 100 years old on Jan. 22,” Salton Eisen said. “Days before her centennial, several members of CBI were held hostage by someone who believed dangerous tropes about the Jewish community. Explaining to my mother, a Holocaust survivor, that our rabbi and fellow congregants were being held against their will felt like an endless nightmare. Once again, our community was under attack.”

 

“Historians have often quipped that ‘we need to make history relevant,’” Salton Eisen added. “But antisemitism is not a thing of the past, but rather a dangerous assailant haunting us in the present as well. The way our synagogue was violated in 2022 was like the way my father was taken hostage decades ago.”

 

“For persons seeking to honor those who lost their lives during the Holocaust, the most important thing they can do is to challenge antisemitism and be honest about the harms it spurs,” Finfer said. “Jewish people are still targeted, profiled and harmed. It is obvious that the fight to end hatred and racism is perpetual. It is a burden every generation must carry, understanding that we may never get to the day where we can say: our work is done.”

 

“It is critical that we teach about the Holocaust and the trauma Jewish people endured and continue to endure,” Salton Eisen concluded. “With the number of Holocaust survivors decreasing, we must be relentless about teaching future generations about the violence that befell our community and the harms that antisemitism causes. We are our best historical records.”

 

Salton Eisen is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She was an adult when she finally broke her parents’ silence about their Holocaust experiences. While they hoped their silence would protect their children, it adorned them as a heavy burden. Salton Eisen has conducted extensive research into the Holocaust and spoken on the topic to school and community groups. She has also served as a docent for the Dallas Memorial Center for Holocaust Studies, now known as the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.

 

Finfer is retired, having worked for many years in sales management for an international packaging company. He is the president of Congregation Beth Israel and active with the Tarrant County Jewish community. He is a voracious gardener with an appreciation for special plants, like night blooming cactus and desert rose.

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Contact: Sydney Bagley, sydney@spotlightpr.org

UndocuBlack: We Need More than Celebrity Support for Bronx Fire Victims

For Immediate Release

Jan. 25, 2022

UndocuBlack: We Need More than Celebrity Support for Bronx Fire Victims

NEW YORK – UndocuBlack, a network of current and former Black immigrants, today released the following statement urging celebrities to direct funding raised after the Bronx fire to victims rather than government entities. The group also invited celebrities to partner with local grassroots groups in supporting systemic changes that would protect Black, poor, and undocumented immigrants:

“People across the country are reeling from the Bronx fire that claimed 17 lives, many of whom were children. Black people, undocumented people and persons living in poverty understand that this is not just about a deadly fire, but rather the treatment of people who are Black, poor, and undocumented. Each identity can be a point of marginalization. Many of the victims were from Gambia, many of them students and all of them hardworking. Aside this, building residents had long complained of cold apartments and the need for better heating to warm themselves and their children. The space heater was a Band-Aid for a larger, structural problem. It is natural to be tormented by this crisis; and this has led many entertainers to offer financial assistance (Fat Joe) or funeral cost assistance (Cardi B).

“But many of the people who escaped the blaze are now hospitalized and holed up in hotels, desperate for a safe place to live. The narrative around the fire cannot be what celebrities are doing, but how to prevent such tragedies in the first place. What is needed is structural reform, accountability for landlords and local government leaders, and meaningful support. UndocuBlack is urging celebrities to be in contact with them, and to send financial relief to directly-impacted people rather than government entities.”

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Contact: Sydney Bagley, sydney@spotlightpr.org

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker’s Publicist Issues Statement on Limited Media Availability

For Immediate Release

Jan. 18, 2022

COLLEYVILLE, Texas – Following the horrific hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel and the ensuing media interest, Jennifer R. Farmer of Spotlight PR, the congregation’s media firm, issued the following statement:

“Thank you for your interest in Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and each individual held hostage on Saturday, Jan. 15. During this difficult time, my priority is to support the emotional well-being of Rabbi Charlie and Congregation Beth Israel. To that end, I am unable to honor most media requests for Rabbi Charlie and the individuals’ held hostage. My goal is to balance the media’s need to know with these individuals’ need to heal. Thank you in advance for respecting Rabbi Charlie and the congregation’s privacy during this time. Please do not go to the homes of persons held hostage. This is not just a news story, but a tragedy impacting real people.”

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Contact: Sydney Bagley, sydney@spotlightpr.org

 

Black Southern Women’s Collaborative Weighs in After Attack on Jewish Synagogue

For Immediate Release

Jan. 17, 2022

Black Southern Women’s Collaborative Weighs in After Attack on Jewish Synagogue

ATLANTA, GA – After a gut-wrenching 12-hour hostage crisis inside a Jewish synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, where four members of Congregation Beth Israel were held, the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative issued the following statement:

“As Black women committed to faith and justice, we were heartbroken to learn of the seizing of a sacred place of worship,” said Phyllis Hill, national organizing director for Faith in Action, and co-founder of the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative. “We take what transpired at Congregation Beth Israel seriously. Any attack on synagogues, mosques, churches or other hallowed spaces is an affront to what is holy and dishonors people’s religious freedom.”

“No one should enter a place of worship and fear for their lives, yet time and time again, synagogues and others hallowed places have been subjected to cruelty and unspeakable violence,” said Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project and member of the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative.

“We pray for the emotional well-being of Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, all Beth Israel congregants, and the broader Colleyville Jewish community,” said the Rev. Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida, and member of the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative. “We will also be intentional about remembering our Muslim brothers and sisters who are always on guard, understanding that the forces of hate seek to use this as an opportunity to further malign Muslim sisters and brothers, even as they detest what happened as much as anyone else.”

“In this moment, we are reminded that what impacts one, impacts us all,” said Tameka Greer, executive director of Memphis Artists for Change and member of the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative. “People of faith have many siblings, and regardless of the faith tradition, we mourn whenever a person or group of people are targeted based on their race, ethnicity, religion, creed, sexual orientation, gender, gender identify etc. An affront to one is an affront to all.”

“We are just a few days into the new year, and now is the time for people of faith to boldly declare that we will no longer tolerate the dishonoring of holy spaces,” said Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition for Equity & Justice and a member of the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative. “Our goal is to ensure all people can live without the threat of violence. This not the time to be a bystander, but rather a moment to declare radical solidarity with all people of faith.”

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker: We Are Resilient, and We Will Recover

For Immediate Release

Jan. 16, 2022

COLLEYVILLE, Texas Following a harrowing ordeal, where Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three congregants were held hostage at Congregation Beth Israel, Cytron-Walker and Michael Finfer, president of Congregation Beth Israel, issued the following statement:

“Over the years, my congregation and I have participated in multiple security courses from the Colleyville Police Department, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League, and Secure Community Network,” Cytron-Walker said. “We are alive today because of that education. I encourage all Jewish congregations, religious groups, schools, and others to participate in active-shooter and security courses.”

“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker added. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.”

“We know that a situation of this magnitude could increase the concern many of us live with on a day-to-day basis due to antisemitism,” Finfer said. “It is important to note that this was a random act of violence. Indeed, there was a one in a million chance that the gunman picked our congregation. Further, the FBI is confirming that the attacker appeared to be working alone.”

“There is no question that this was a traumatic experience.” Cytron-Walker said. “We appreciate all the love, prayers and support from our local community and throughout the world. We are grateful for the outcome. We are resilient and we will recover.”

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

 

 

 

 

The Power Coalition Urges Passage of Voting Rights Bills Ahead of MLK Day

For Immediate Release

Jan. 13, 2022

The Power Coalition Urges Passage of Voting Rights Bills Ahead of MLK Day

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Power Coalition for Equity & Justice today celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by urging legislators in Louisiana to do more to protect the franchise of voting. The group’s public plea comes weeks before redistricting, or the drawing of local, state and federal lines, is set to begin on Feb. 1. The coalition issued the following statement:

“There has never been a time when the right to vote has been under greater threat than it is today,” said Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition for Equity & Justice and a member of the Black Southern Women’s Collective. “From various states drawing district lines that are racially discriminatory or gerrymandered to laws that restrict who can vote to felony disenfranchisement laws, attempts to curtail the franchise are plentiful. Today, however, the threat to voting rights comes from traditional opponents, as well as from those who give lip service to the same values as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr but whose actions reveal a disconnect. The latter are those who give audience to extremists and pacify the marginalized with platitudes about incrementalism.”

“Unless this administration and every Democratic office holder at the state and federal level are ready to move heaven and earth to expand access to voting, they should not celebrate King’s legacy,” Shelton said. “Until our congressional leaders pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, they cannot claim that we have made progress in the area of voting. And our local leaders cannot celebrate on MLK Day and then oversee a redistricting process that excludes the 40% of Black people and people of color in Louisiana.”

The Power Coalition for Equity & Justice works to build power and voice in traditionally disenfranchised communities across Louisiana. It is a coalition of groups committed to organizing in impacted communities, educating and turning out voters, and fighting for policies that create a more equitable and just system in Louisiana.

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Contact: Sydney Bagley, sydney@spotlightpr.org

Black Southern Women’s Collective Urges Passage of Voting Rights Act, End of Filibuster

For Immediate Release

Jan. 13, 2022

Black Southern Women’s Collective Urges Passage of Voting Rights Act, End of Filibuster

WASHINGTON. – The Black Southern Women’s Collective (BSWC) today urged Congress to pass landmark voting rights legislation and be more aggressive in protecting the franchise. The group of Black women executive directors in the South released the following statement:

“Today we are facing one of the greatest threats on our democracy that Americans have seen in decades,” said Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition for Equity & Justice and a BSWC member. “Not only has there been a crop of voting restrictions in states across the country, but redistricting threatens to enshrine legislative districts that would all but silence marginalized communities. Sen. Schumer’s announcement that he would force a vote on the Voting Rights Act and possibly end the filibuster is welcomed, if overdue.”

“Quite frankly, passing a landmark Voting Rights Act is critical, but Democrats must do more to shore up our democracy,” said Rev. Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida and a BSWC member. “The attacks on the right to vote are perpetual, and proactive measures to expand the franchise should be continuous as well.”

“In Memphis, Tennessee, over 100,000 people were removed from the voting rolls, many of them unknowingly purged,” said Tameka Greer, executive director of Memphis Artists for Change and a BSWC member. “It took hours of advocacy to identify and inform persons who risked not being able to vote. Democrats cannot continue asking or tolerating Black people and grassroots groups who are constantly asked to out-organize racism. They must do more.”

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Contact: Sydney Bagley, sydney@spotlightpr.org

LIVE FREE Joins Death Penalty Action in Urging President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland to End the Death Penalty and Destroy the Federal Death Penalty Chamber

For Immediate Release

Jan. 12, 2022

LIVE FREE Joins Death Penalty Action in Urging President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland to End the Death Penalty and Destroy the Federal Death Penalty Chamber

WASHINGTON – LIVE FREE, a 10-year-old entity dedicated to ending gun violence and mass incarceration, today joined Death Penalty Action (DPA) in urging President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland to end the death penalty and destroy the federal death penalty chamber. The group will travel to Washington over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend to ask Biden to halt the Trumpian federal execution spree and end capital punishment.

“There is a connection between gun violence, mass incarceration and the death penalty,” said Rev. Michael McBride, executive director of LIVE FREE. “The people most likely to be impacted by gun violence, mass incarceration and the death penalty are overwhelmingly Black, Latino, male and poor. Policymakers can help create the beloved community but only after abandoning their obsession with crime and punishment.”

While in the nation’s Capital, Rev. McBride will participate in a prayer vigil on Jan. 16 at 6:00 p.m. ET at Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 E Capitol St., NE.

LIVE FREE and DPA’s specific ask of President Biden is to:

  • Immediately commute the sentences of those currently on federal and military death rows;
  • Order a halt to the seeking of new death sentences in federal prosecutions;
  • Demolish the federal execution chamber and the building it is housed in at FCI Terre Haute;
  • Replace the FCI Terre Haute facility with living things, such as a grassy area and/or a garden that may be enjoyed by all at FCI Terre Haute, including the prisoners and those who work at the prison;
  • Pledge to support and sign HR 262/SB 582, the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021, which abolishes federal and military death penalty laws, removes the possibility of death sentences, and resentences those currently on federal and military death rows (without specifying life without parole as the only alternative sentence).

A petition on the requests of Biden is here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/biden-demolish-the-death-chamber.

While acknowledging that Attorney General Garland has already halted many federal executions, LIVE FREE and DPA are also urging him to:

  • Declare that federal prosecutions will not seek the death penalty;
  • Order the withdraw of all remaining “death notices”;
  • Support efforts in Congress to pass the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021.

A petition on the matter is here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/urge-garland-stop-seeking-death-sentences.

DPA provides resources, leadership, support, educational resources, direct actions and activities within the broader anti-death penalty movement. DPA assists local, state, and national groups in their work to end the use of the death penalty.

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

The UndocuBlack Network Unites With New York African Communities to Mourn the Loss of Lives in the Bronx Fire

For Immediate Release

Jan. 10, 2022

The UndocuBlack Network Unites With New York African Communities to Mourn the Loss of Lives in the Bronx Fire

NEW YORK – Today the UndocuBlack Network expressed support for families impacted by yesterday’s horrific fire at an affordable housing complex in the Bronx. Many of the residents were from Gambia and other West African communities. The fire, started by a space heater, took the lives of 19 people and injured 63 others. Patrice Lawrence, executive director and a Jamaican immigrant; Haddy Gassama, policy and advocacy director and a Gambian immigrant; and Yoliswa Khumalo Hadebe, director of media and narrative and a South African immigrant, issued the following statement:

“We join impacted families in grieving the tragic loss of life that resulted from the Bronx fire,” said Lawrence. “As was the case with the Grenfell Tower fire, we are familiar with these tragedies: even when classified as accidents, they result from systematic failures. The response to such devastation requires community, love and support but structural change.”

The UndocuBlack Network urged the public to support the New York City Gambian Youth Organization (GYO), which is requesting relief for persons affected by this tragedy. Additional information is available here.

“I am enraged that the Gambian youth have to be the leaders as our federal and state systems continue to fail us on so many levels,” said Gassama. “However, I’m also deeply grateful and proud of the leadership our people have shown. It is only community support and resources that make this hard moment bearable.”

“For decades, public housing has kept our people living in indignity without maintenance or consistent basic services, like heat. The African community should not have to fix the New York government’s failures. New York elected officials need to house the impacted families and other tenants in the hundreds of empty Bronx luxury apartments today,” said Khumalo Hadebe.

Both Mayor Eric Adams and Senator Chuck Schumer have publicly stated that no immigration-related questions will be asked when survivors of the fire seek help.

“UndocuBlack urges impacted immigrants to reach out for the support they need,” said Lawrence. “There will be no immigration consequences for requesting or receiving help. No one should have to grieve the loss of a child and deal with potentially being unhoused, while fearing imminent deportation.”

“Sen. Schumer’s verbal promise to the immigrant community was well taken, but mere words are not enough,” added Khumalo Hadebe. “He must deliver in word and in deed by ensuring that his caucus passes the Build Back Better Act with the inclusion of green cards.”

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Contact: Sydney Bagley, sydney@spotlightpr.org