Quest for social justice

Newburgh’s Human Rights Commission holds virtual panel

Posted 12/23/20

This year, Human Rights Day had its proclamation at the City of Newburgh’s December 10 meeting, which also proclaimed the 10th to the 17th as Human Rights Week. This proclamation was done …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Quest for social justice

Newburgh’s Human Rights Commission holds virtual panel


This year, Human Rights Day had its proclamation at the City of Newburgh’s December 10 meeting, which also proclaimed the 10th to the 17th as Human Rights Week. This proclamation was done thanks to Newburgh’s Human Rights Commission, who also held a special panel on Thursday, December 17 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The panel was made up of five community members and activists who shared how their roles and work ties into human rights in the city. The two-hour long virtual meeting started with an introduction from the chair of the City of Newburgh Human Rights Commissioners, Genesis Ramos. Also in attendance was councilwoman Karen Meija, Katrin Redfern, Ramona Burton and Richie Rosencran from the commission.

The commission serves to “foster mutual respect and understanding among all racial, religious and nationality groups in the community,” among many other things. They are able to hold public events, like the one on Thursday, to hold conversations with the community.

“We are a group of volunteers,” said Ramos. “With that, our capacity is limited. We don’t have the ability to investigate or prosecute.”
Although, they are a resource for when someone needs assistance filing complaints regarding human rights.

During Thursday’s event, each panelist had the opportunity to introduce themselves and then were asked a question by Ramos. The first panelist was lifelong resident Corey Allen, who has over 20 years of experience working in the community organizing different events and currently works at Newburgh’s Habitat for Humanity.
Ramos proposed the question of how can housing needs be met for all residents in the City of Newburgh.

“There has been a conversation of affordability in Newburgh,” said Allen. “Newburgh is not affordable.”

Currently, the City of Newburgh is doing a housing needs assessment through the Leviticus Fund, which has held a series of discussions in the city to find the best ways to move forward.

“I ask people what is really affordable to you,” said Allen. “We need honesty and it starts at the top. Those folks we look to make policy for us have to be real with us. They have to look at the area and ask what’s going on here.”

Following Allen, Burton introduced herself. Burton is not only one of the Human Rights commissioners but is a board of education member for the Newburgh Enlarged City School District.

“I like to look at [where we are now] from a context of historical events and activities,” said Burton who gave a crash-course of Newburgh’s history dating back to the 1600s. “It is essential that we learn the values of historical context and how they relate to having difficult conversations about oppression, racism and white supremacy.”

Ramos pitched the question of what intersections Burton sees between the disparities in education and the socioeconomic impact in the community.

“Looking at social determinants of health, there are specific indicators that contribute to a person not faring well in terms of their health incomes,” said Burton.

She touched on food insecurity affecting your readiness to learn. During the pandemic, the Newburgh Enlarged City School District has stepped up to serve its children and has recently hit 1,000,000 meals for kids in need.

Auro Lopez, a community member who is a part of Planned Parenthood’s Raíz program, which is “committed to breaking down barriers in accessing health care in the Latinx community,” was also a panelist for this event. Ramos asked her how aspects such as income and race factor into health outcomes such as reproductive health care in the City of Newburgh.

“Income and race affect our health in every single way,” said Lopez, who described how the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated and highlighted how. “It’s one we cannot ignore.”

Anusha Mehar was also on the call as a panelist. Mehar is a cultural producer and has founded Panja & The Sanctuary in Newburgh. She answered how art and culture contributes to human rights and social justice.

“The street to me is the most democratic place that an individual can exist,” said Mehar. “That is because it’s public space. For me, I am very specifically interested in public arts and public placemaking.”
She described the role of the artist “is as a disruptor.”

Wrapping up the panel was Rene Mejia, who is the community organizer from Nobody Leaves Mid Hudson.

“It is exactly my job to take everyone who is feeling outraged, voiceless and that what we are currently in is wrong, and try and help organize around that,” said Mejia. “Not just put a bandaid on, but get to the root of the problem.”

Most of the issues Nobody Leaves Mid Hudson ends up tackling are those “that are directly linked to human rights.” He answered how the Newburgh community can come together to better understand the migrant community.

“The best way for us to come together is to acknowledge that any and all immigrants here in Newburgh are people who have families, people who are also scared and people who want to feel safe just like everyone else in this city,” said Mejia. “We need to come together and be more empathetic towards one another.”

Following the Q+A between Ramos and the panelists, there was a Q+A period with the public and the panelists. Community members asked about financial literacy, gentrification, housing and more.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here