The Gifford Newsletter
Summer 2020 | Building Civic Engagement
The I-81 Project is a Civil Rights Issue
One issue that the NYCLU has been heavily involved with is the debate surrounding the rebuilding and redesign of Syracuse’s I-81 overpass. CNY Chapter Director Yusuf Abdul-Qadir is quick to point out that this is not just another infrastructure project: the problems we are facing and the various paths forward are part of a larger story about which voices are heard and whose health is prioritized. Just as we grapple today with the legacy of a project from 50 years ago, our decisions in this moment will have profound implications for generations to come.
A Culture of Change
Everywhere I go I hear people talking about how the COVID-19 pandemic is changing our culture. From live music to sports, remote offices to greeting people with a handshake – people are wondering if things will ever return to “normal”. Almost always, the change being discussed is negative. I do not doubt that many of those things will come to pass, but today I want to call attention to a positive movement that this public health crisis has exposed and developed into a new energy for change: civic engagement.
Going Public: The Story Behind Ophelia’s Place
Adopting a Senior 2020
This year’s graduates have not only lost out on the traditional graduation celebrations, but are entering a changing and uncertain world at a time of great crisis. In recognition of this, a Facebook group was created by Syracuse City School District parent Jessica Rogala designed to connect graduating seniors with people willing to “adopt” them. The initiative gained quite a bit of attention and so far more than 4,000 users have joined. Gifford Program Administrator Sheria Walker proposed that The Gifford Foundation participate by selecting a number of seniors to sponsor as they move on to the next phase of their lives.
The Center: Building Collaboration Among Syracuse Activists
The Syracuse Center for Peace and Social Justice is an unusual type of nonprofit. Rather than lobbying for policy change or delivering services directly to the public, they focus on providing a home for other organizations in Syracuse. As the name suggests, The Center only offers space to groups whose mission is grounded in the promotion of peace and social justice. The idea is that by bringing together different groups that share a core vision and philosophy, they can encourage them share resources, collaborate on projects, and boost their impact.
Raising Up Voices and Votes
Though Presidential elections always draw a higher participation rate than other years, some districts only saw half of registered voters casting a ballot. In 2017 – the year of the Syracuse mayoral election – the numbers plummeted even further with only 35% of registered voters participating. This disturbing lack of civic participation inspired The League to partner with The Dunbar Association, TNT, and the NAACP to form the Onondaga Votes! initiative in 2018. Their goal was simple: to increase voter turnout across the City of Syracuse.
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