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CBTU Holds Region One Conference

Event highlighted theme "47 Years Strong...Saving Our Heritage"

 Clayola Brown, president of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute and IFPTE International Rep Karen Bellamy Lewis
The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) Region One Annual Conference was held on August 16 -19, 2018 in Albany New York. CBTU Region One is comprised of Chapters from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, and Ontario Canada.

The conference kicked off with a reception and a warm welcome from the CBTU Region One Director Sharon Lovelady-Hall. She introduced the Mayor of Albany, Cathy Sheehan who brought forth greetings and welcomed CBTU to the State’s Capitol. CBTU International President Terry Melvin stopped by to address the conference attendees. He talked about the JANUS decision and the impact of it’s ruling on the labor movement and the community. President Melvin spoke passionately about the importance of civic engagement and the necessity to fight more than ever to preserve the American Dream. He implored everyone to exercise their rights at the polls, by getting out to vote and encouraging others to vote in the upcoming November election. The evening culminated with our youth as they displayed their talents through essays, poetry, spoken word, and singing.

The conference theme was “47 Years Strong...Saving Our Heritage”, reiterating the need to remain vigilant, and not turn back the clock in the face of the attacks on labor, civil, and human rights. The conference opened with a panel discussion about “Women Fighting in Today’s Civil Rights Movement”. Three women served on the panel, New York Criminal Justice Attorney Natasha Huntley-Locklear, CBTU International Secretary-Treasurer Denise Berkley, and Andrea McCormack from the CBTU Ontario Chapter. The panelist addressed challenges that African American women face as a double minority and where they fall in the hierarchy of society. How black women are on the bottom which means they always support and lift everyone above them, and there is no one to lift them up. Additionally, they discussed how black women are always having to prove themselves significantly more than others, yet economically they are at the lowest level.

New Jersey Attendees (l-r): Sherry Thomas (Local 195, IFPTE & CBTU NJ Chapter Trustee), Melvin Weldon (CWA 1040), Evelyn Boyd (CWA 1040 & CBTU NJ Chapter Treasurer), Timothy Rudolph (Local 195, IFPTE & CBTU NJ Chapter Vice President), Karen Bellamy Lewis (IFPTE & CBTU NJ Chapter Trustee), Bridget Bryant (Local 195, IFPTE) 
The session that followed was a Health & Wellness workshop which was presented by Dr. Brenda Robinson, CEO of the Black Nurses Coalition. She addressed the topic of slave food vs. soul food and the impact it has on African Americans today. Dr. Robinson discussed healthcare disparities and how poverty plays a huge role in choices regarding health. Thus, having the greatest impact on African Americans, Latino and low-income individuals who have the worst outcome of any disease among minorities. Black women have higher death rates in breast cancer, but not the highest diagnosis because of healthcare disparity. This was said to be exemplary of how “white privilege transcends to healthcare privilege.” Dr. Robinson also provided information on health advocacy and empowerment, such as how to speak up with physicians, and medication affordability.

Next, there was the Women’s Awards Luncheon where women within the CBTU were recognized for the work they have done. Candidate for New York Attorney General, Latisha James spoke about her aspirations of becoming the first African American woman to hold this position. The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Clayola Brown, President A. Phillip Randolph Institute (APRI) and Vice President Coalition Black Trade Unionist (CBTU). As always, Clayola delivered a riveting speech that inspired and spoke truth to power. She challenged all women to step up and step out, and to let their voices resonate all the way from the house of labor to the White House. She spoke about the importance of getting out the vote in the upcoming election, and not surrendering the right that so many have fought and died for.

Once the conference reconvened, the NYC Chapter did a presentation on the “Poor People’s Campaign” which focuses on systemic racism and poverty. The fundamental principles of the campaign were addressed along with the commitment to non-violence in a civil disobedience manner.

Following this the election of officers were held. Regional Director Sharon Lovelady-Hall, Secretary Andrea McCormack, Treasurer Nina Manning and Under 40 Committee Chair Natasha Isma were unopposed and re-elected for another 4-year term. Ursula Howard was newly elected to the Women’s Committee and Eugene Williams to the Men’s Committee.

The second day of the conference began with two Leadership workshops. The first was titled “Environmental Justice in our Communities” which provided awareness and education about environmental issues that impact the community. The second workshop, “Today, Tomorrow and Beyond - Union Strong” reviewed the effect that loss of union membership has on workers and their communities. Discussions were held regarding strategies and techniques to fight back against outside forces and how to build power and stay Union Strong.

The Men’s Committee held a Men’s Conference themed “Standing Together, United and Strong”. The first segment was titled “Justice or Just Us”. The focus was on what to do if stopped by the police and police relations in our communities. Zika A. Saunders, former criminal defense attorney and municipal court judge provided insight concerning knowing your rights and how to exercise them with the goal of returning home. She vehemently said this, “You can’t fight a civil rights battle on the side of the road at 3 a.m. The person with the power can and will exercise their authority.”

Next there was a Town Hall titled: “Sleeping is Not an Option”, a continuation of the CBTU legacy that awoke the “Sleeping Giant” forty-seven years ago. This session focused on issues that impact our communities and how labor, religious and community organizations can work in coalition to build positive outlets to address them. The panelist provided constructive solutions to systematic problems in the community, centered around reentry programs, jobs, mentoring, volunteerism, and lobbying and serving the people in the community.

The conference closed with a worship service where the Reverend Sharnelle E. Turpin, Associate Pastor at 2nd Baptist Church in Catskills, NY delivered a powerful message centered around the conference theme. The next annual CBTU Region One conference will be held in Ontario Canada.

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