Black History Month in the Hudson Valley

This recent summer of 2020, people from all over the world gathered in protest to police brutality and well-rooted systemic racism against people of color (POC) after a horrifically unforgettable murder of a black man by police officers was video recorded and shared with the whole world through social media.

Oppression is not news to this world. Oppression of POC is not new, either. More eyes are certainly opening up to this fact, but we need actions to follow as eyes open. No one is free until we are all free! The oppression of any human (or community of humans) in this country, or in this world, should shatter anyone’s comfort zone. We, each and every one of us (doesn’t matter who), are all constituents to either liberation or oppression.

Today, February 1st marks the first day of Black History Month. In my opinion, giving just this federally declared month (the shortest one in the year) to acknowledge Black history is severely insufficient! And insulting! Black history is American history!

Before I get all passionate and start ranting about my views of the American educational system (remember guys, I used to be a teacher, for both public and private schools. I have a lot to say, but my mama told me never to say anything that is not nice ) let me focus my energy on why I am here and why I am writing.

My husband and I currently live in the Hudson Valley, and we are big on supporting locally. When the protests happened this past summer, I researched avenues of support, both local and on a broader scale. Below I have listed my findings of local, Hudson Valley organizations, advocacies, and even social profiles that you can support today, this month, but preferably all year, every year.

Local Organizations

Please research, follow, or support at your own discretion. Listed alphabetically.

A.J Williams-Myers African roots Library Located in Kingston, NY, this library’s mission, according to their website, is “to promote literacy through teaching and learning about the African roots experience, including history and culture, through a dynamic exchange of information, ideas, and creativity.” They are currently temporarily closed, however, please visit their website for more up-to-date information and if you feel inclined, to donate. African Roots Library

Call Blackline This organization started as a small group of volunteers from the Hudson Valley, New York, and is now nationwide! The mission of this organization, for me, is especially imperative! I live with mental health issues (as some of you know), so this is extremely near and dear to my heart.
In one of my mental health breakdowns, my mother (a divorced Latina), who had no idea what to do to protect me in my mental breakdown, did the only thing she knew to do – she picked up the phone to call for help. She dialed 911 and requested an ambulance to bring me to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation or help or what have you. Instead, two white male officers arrived. The officers were right off the bat, aggressive and hostile towards me. Long story short, they arrested me, put me in the back of their vehicle, and brought me down to the station. This happened in February. I was only sixteen years old. I was not wearing any real shoes (I was in flip flops) or a coat. I had on a three-quarter sleeve length shirt and jeans. My face, arms, and chests were soaked from all of my sobbings. I was brought to the station like that. I was offered a ride home after all was said and done, but I declined, and that was it.
Today, February 1st, 2021, I watched yet another video of police brutality towards a black individual needing help. This time the individual who was abused by police officers, thrown on the ground onto the cold, muddy snow of a Rochester, NY city street, and was handcuffed while the officers’ knee dug into their back as they yelled for help. This individual was a 9-year-old girl. She was nine!
Make it make sense!!! How does a grown man weighing over 180 lbs, body-slam a little girl weighing no more than 100 lbs? Why? Because she was having a mental crisis?!?! Make that make sense!
Police officers are not equipped to be answering calls of mental health situations. I recognize the privilege I experienced in my situation, and I am sick- I was sixteen, and she is nine. Both of our experiences had to do with needing mental health care. Both of us had officers respond to the situation aggressively instead of trained mental health care officials. However, only one of us got physically abused and is now tremendously scarred for life. The only difference other than age is that my skin is pale-white, and hers is not.
If the black community cannot call on the support and protection of the individuals or organizations that are put in place to do JUST THAT, who can be called? That is why Call Blackline is so important! It offers the opportunity of the correct response to a call for help. They will have my allegiance always. Call Blackline

Citizen Action of New York, a grassroots organization with a mission to fight for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice. They work alongside other organizations that share their vision and therefore unite their focus on communities most impacted. Citizen Action of New York

E.N.J.A.N. (End New Jim Crow Action Network) is a campaign to end mass incarceration. According to their website, “in Dutchess county alone, African Americans account for more than half of all those sentenced each year, despite constituting merely 10% of population.” E.N.J.A.N.

Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson self-described as “a multiracial, intergenerational, grassroots organization building power for a Hudson Valley, New York State, and country that works for all of us.” They have powerful victory stories, head on over, support, and read: Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson

North Star Fund, an organization, set out to help other grassroots organizations led by communities of color. Empowering through grants, funds, and connections. North Star Fund

Rise Up Kingston Based in Kingston, NY, this organization is dedicated to dismantling the structures of racism and oppression. Rise Up Kingston

Showing Up For Racial Justice Hudson is a chapter in Hudson, NY, of the bigger national organization known as Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ). Through community organizations, mobilization, and education, this network of groups works to undermine white supremacy and work for racial justice. SURJ Hudson

Soul Fire Farm is “an Afro-Indigenous centered community committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system.” located in Petersburg, NY. (3.5 hours outside of Manhattan and 2 hours from New Paltz. NY – frame of reference for my city and HV folx) Listen, friends, do not forget we are animals. We survive by the universal rule of survival of the fittest. The food system, and everything that consists under its’ umbrella, should be equitable. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that it’s not. They said it better on their website though, “The food system is built upon land theft and genocide of indigenous people and the exploitation of Black and Brown labor.” They are currently closed to the public due to COVID-19. However, please reach out through e-mail. The website mentions scheduled visits, but. Go. Read. More! Get involved. Donate. Soul Fire Farm

Local Events in Honor of Black History Month

Hudson Valley Events Only

1st – 28th Black History Month Kingston has an events calendar consisting of a kick-off event, an online book read with the author of “Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life,” a Valentine’s Day Comedy Show, a mural walk, and a self-guided Sojourner Truth Life Community Ride.

3rd, Retrospective: Spirit of a People- 40 years of a Photographer’s Work hosted by the Newburgh Free Library. This is an online event that requires an RSVP.

16th The State of Black New York- Hudson Valley Region, a forum to discuss the issues impacting African American communities.

24th Afrofuturist Poetry Workshop with Jo’Van O’Neal by the Newburgh Free Library.

25th Inside Black Stories Matter – a storytelling and discussion series from TMI Project.

26th Spaces Intended For Us: Reflecting on an African American Experience an online event, a walk-through personal experience.

Local Social Groups and Profiles

Below are a small handful of local social media profiles. Please follow or support at your own discretion. Listed alphabetically.

@activismupdateshudsonvalley Follow to receive updates on activism events in the Hudson Valley.

@blackatwallkill a safe space for current students or alumni of color (or others) to share Wallkill CSD experiences.

@blmhudsonvalley The name is pretty self-explanatory.

@blmnyc, New York City, is not that far from the Hudson Valley, and myself included, many folx go back and forth from upstate to the city.

@blmupstateny Official Upstate NY chapter of the Black Lives Matter Network

@bsu.at.np SUNY New Paltz Black Student Union – although geared towards students of SUNY New Paltz, offers great information to local non-students.

@callblackline If you read my story above, you should already know why I love them and why this organization is so important.

Non-Locals to Support and Follow

Please follow or support at your own discretion. Listed alphabetically.

@aapolicyforum New York to Los Angeles.

@blackfutureslab They’re making efforts to transform communities and change the way power operates over said communities.

@blackwomensblueprint Organization providing a blueprint of Black Liberation through a feminist lens.

@blackyouthproject This is the Black Youth Project’s digital archive.

@blklivesmatter Official Instagram for Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.

@bwsml_ Black Womxn Save My Life – “a motto, a mantra, a movement” This profile touched on a very core truth for me. The most influential and inspiring figures in my life have all been women of color. Black womxn have truly saved my life! From being present and involved in my community, in my church, in my schools to the books I’ve read written by, about, or for women of color, and to the women of history who inspired and changed me; I would not be who I am if it weren’t for them.

@byp100 a national organization of Black individuals 18-35 years old creating justice and freedom for all Black people.

@data4blacklives Information is power!

@hiphopcaucus and for my music-loving friends, this a profile of “the political arm of hip hop fighting for racial, climate, and economic justice.”

@mvmnt4blklives Instagram of Movement For Black Lives

@wearepushblack A Black-led nonprofit posting daily uplifting, informative, or historical truths that do not get taught in schools.

Support Local Black-Owned Businesses

Hudson Valley’s magazine The Chronogram did an excellent job of comprising a list of black-owned businesses in all Hudson Valley counties (very user friendly, I may add), please follow this link to their list.

Although there are many more great organizations, causes, profiles that could have very well made it to my list, I deeply apologize if I did not include them all. I am still on a journey of searching and discovering. I am open to learning more and supporting more. Please drop a line below and let me know what great gems I have missed.

Are you familiar with any of these accounts or organizations? Do you feel inspired to support any one of these great causes today?

Seriously, leave a comment below. I’d love to chat!

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