February 15th-17th, 2019 – Open Buffalo staff were featured presenters among statewide policy experts, advocates, community leaders, and elected officials at the 2019 Caucus Weekend of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators (NYSABPRL). At the 48th annual legislative conference, advocating many issues in state government for the betterment of communities of color, this year’s theme expressed the common purpose, “We Are the Agents of Change: Strong, Resilient, Unified.” Speaking on pressing issues of protections for climate change and equitable marijuana legalization, Open Buffalo staff reiterated this call for collective action that moves New York State legislators to prioritize social and economic justice for frontline communities.
To represent the Western New York area, OB Executive Director Franchelle Parker was invited to participate on the Climate Justice for Frontline Communities Panel with statewide NY Renews partners. In her remarks, Parker articulated the real-life harm felt by climate-vulnerable New Yorkers and solutions laid out in the Climate & Community Protection Act. “We need to make sure we are centering the people that will be hit the worst and hit first,” explained Parker with regards to the proposed policy shift. Emphasizing the current moment as a ‘tipping point’ of destructive climate change, Parker affirmed the urgency of a Just Transition framework to defend and uplift the most vulnerable communities from humanitarian crises.
Open Buffalo was also recognized at the NYSABPRL conference as a regional leader in the movement for larger cannabis justice reform. In the Marijuana Justice and Equity workshop, OB Community Organizer India Walton joined Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Majority Leader in the NY State Assembly, to respond to New York’s upcoming marijuana legalization. As the head of OB’s Justice & Opportunity Coalition, Walton offers a wealth of experience in fighting for legalization justice – from the #BuffaloLLEP campaign to de-prioritize arrests for low-level marijuana possession to the statewide “We Rise to Legalize” campaign. Reflecting on the goals of the latter campaign, Walton stressed the importance of a marijuana legalization law that addresses longstanding racial injustices. Since black and brown communities have been ravaged by the war on drugs, Walton voiced that lawmakers must craft a policy that begins to repair these harms through community reinvestment, expungement of non-violent marijuana convictions, and sustainable workforce options among other opportunities.
Read more here about the Climate Community Protection Act and We Rise to Legalize.