On Wednesday night I wrote this diary, wondering (rhetorically) what I should do as a white man in reaction to the atrocity of the Charleston massacre. Well, I’ve made a start. I’m volunteering for this local organization in Rochester, New York.

Here’s some snippets from their website:

Founded in 1965, Metro Justice is Rochester’s leading grassroots, member-driven, progressive organization working for social and economic justice. When we join together to demand a more fair and just society, our individual voices are louder, our efforts more effective, our power greater. […]

Metro Justice lives this quote from Frederick Douglass. We seek a better, more just world, free of economic, racial, and social injustice. We know that the way to move closer to this world is through an organized, collective struggle for justice. All of our work is meant to build the strength of our communities to win that struggle for justice, but we can’t do it without you. Below you’ll find some of our events and on-going campaigns where you can join us on the path to a brighter future.

Here are a few of the recent events they have sponsored:

Quality Education Campaign

Albany’s rhetoric has not met reality. Governor Cuomo recognizes that schools need quality programs and supports in order to prepare students for college and careers. But, the investments that the Governor has put forth combined with 5 years of cuts have failed to improve the quality of education. New York is moving in the wrong direction.

New York has some of the best schools in the country that offer a diversity of courses and supports to meet their students’ needs and help them reach their fullest potential. But these schools are only in wealthy areas.

There is gap in New York separating the great schools from the ones that are struggling to provide even the basics for their students. This gap rings in at $8,601 per student, which is the difference between a student going to college prepared or dropping out because they lack the supports and resources.

On particular project they are focused upon is Breaking Rochester’s School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Rochester clearly has a problem. In 2012-13, 88 percent of all suspensions were for non-violent offenses, resulting in almost 55,000 lost days of suspensions — the equivalent of 300 school years! The data also shows that students of color, students with disabilities, and students of color with disabilities are disproportionately suspended, sometimes at almost three times the rate compared to their White peers.

Recalling last year’s incident where Black teenagers in Rochester were arrested while waiting to board a bus before a basketball game, Rochester’s students of color are particularly criminalized for minor offenses. For example, only three percent of all arrests in schools were for serious felonies, and 75 percent of the arrests made were for non-violent incidents. In simple terms, Rochester students, especially students of color, are being suspended and arrested for minor, subjective behaviors which are adversely affecting their academic opportunities and outcomes.

– See more at: http://www.advancementproject.org/blog/entry/breaking-rochesters-school-to-prison-pipeline#sthash.kjd1dPzP.dpuf

They are also actively engaged in working to raise New York State’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Fast food workers in Rochester are joining thousands of workers in over 100 cities across the United States to demand an industry-wide $15 per hour wage and to form a union without retaliation.

Rochester is the 5th poorest city in the United States. Meanwhile multi-billion dollar corporations like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King take millions in profits away from our city leaving behind only poverty wages. Fast Food workers and Metro Justice are standing up to form the front-line for the fight against poverty for all in Rochester.

By demanding fair wages, union rights, and real respect in the workplace fast-food workers are standing up to fight poverty for our entire community. With higher wages, fast food workers would be able to pull themselves, and their families out of poverty while further supporting local businesses. By seeking to form a union, they are helping to revitalize a labor movement that represents all workers. Will you stand up with us?

Now, I don’t know what exactly my role will be (might be pretty small to be honest), but one thing I hope to focus upon is publicizing the social justice campaigns and projects Metro Justice supports in Western New York, here, at Booman Tribune and elsewhere on social media. Obviously, I can;t tell their entire story in one blog post, but my goal is to return from time to time to remind people of what they do for people in need, and to encourage everyone here, white, black, gay, straight, trans, cis, religious, non-religious and so on and so forth to look for organizations in your own communities to support with your money or your time.

Except for my personal blogging, and the occasional random good deed here and there, I’ve been on the sideline. Yes, I am disabled. Yes, I have a wife who is disabled and needs my help. But I’ve been using that as an excuse for too long. Back in 2004 and 2005, I campaigned for Kerry, worked for Election Protection and attended anti-war rallies. My health won’t let me be that physically active anymore, but my brain and my other skills can still be put to use.

For a while I became disenchanted with politics and disheartened. I believed my days of trying to make a difference (other than the occasional blog post speaking to the choir) were over. Well, I was wrong. This is me doing my best to atone for that mistake.

If you live in New York State and support the progressive causes Metro Justice for which Metro Justice is working, please consider volunteering or making a donation, if you can.

The link to their donation page is here: Link

The link to their main page, where you can learn more about the organization is here: Link

Whether you choose to help Metro Justice or not, please, all of you who are able but not actively working for progressive causes you support, consider volunteering for a community organization near you. A food bank. A battered women’s shelter. Lobbying your state government as part of organizations fighting fracking, supporting the legalization of marijuana, calling for change to unjust and unequal law enforcement practices against African Americans, for gun control, for LGBTQ rights or for whatever you feel comfortable doing and supporting.

The best thing all of us can do to honor the innocent men and women killed in Charleston is to take action to make this country a better place now and for future generations. Fight the hate from people such as the Charleston Mass Murderer with love, but fight. The best place to start is where you live, among people suffering in your community who need your help. In my humble opinion.

Thanks for your consideration.

Steven D

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