City of Kingston events celebrate and advocate for democracy

KINGSTON, NY — The day after Election Day, residents of the City of Kingston unified in a peaceful walk for Black lives, and a celebration of America’s democracy and the ongoing presidential election. The Wednesday Walks 4 Black Lives began back in early June and have been occurring biweekly in Kingston since. After protestors concluded their walk in Academy Green Park, Anne Ames, with the local chapter of End the New Jim Crow Network, spoke to attendees and emphasized the theme of the night: “Take a stand, or take a seat.”
Local chapter of End the New Jim Crow Network member Anne Ames speaks with attendees after the Wednesday Walk 4 Black Lives, about their petition for better mental health services and resources, and advocated for the Real Kingston Tenant Union. Photo courtesy of Susanna Granieri.
“It takes a network of people to do things, it doesn’t take a million people,” Ames said. “It doesn’t take 1,000 people, but 100 people can get [things] done. There were only a handful of us doing these marches every two weeks and we were going crazy. It was like giving birth, but we kept doing it. We needed more people [then] and we need more people [now].” Rashida Tyler, co-founder of the Real Kingston Tenant Union, a service advocating for affordable housing in the City of Kingston, spoke on the issues of the Department of Social Services (DSS) sanctioning people and in turn ultimately removing them from their housing. An information guide from the Mobilization for Justice explains that a sanction from the DSS comes after someone who receives public assistance misses work appointments, refuses a work assignment, does not work all required assignment hours, fails to comply with drug/alcohol policies, or fails to report the absence of a minor child from the household or provide information on the child’s behalf. “Last year we had somebody who had a 120 day sanction because he didn’t return documentation because he was in the hospital, because he had a heart attack, an aneurysm and a stroke,” Tyler said. “He ended up in the warming center because they weren’t going to provide any accommodations. We had to go to DSS and we had to argue with them in order to get that lifted. Right now, he’s living in an apartment after we were able to get him housed in a motel. He was at that motel for a year. A year.”
Signs were hung from historical statues in Academy Green Park in the City of Kingston the day after election day, while votes were still being counted, for the biweekly Wednesday Walks 4 Black Lives. Photo courtesy of Susanna Granieri.
Attendees began to clap, and although Tyler was glad there was a roof over his head, it was not enough. “We have to do better. We have to.” “That is a part of gentrification. Gentrification starts with reinvesting into the community,” Ames said to close the event. “So you take the services out, and when you take the services out, people have to follow the services. That’s what they are doing.” After people began to dissipate, they migrated toward the Ulster County Courthouse for a Celebrate the Vote event, which advocated for a complete count of all votes in the general election, and the spread of awareness to continue to fight for equality in our democracy. “I mean right now, the American democratic process is already extremely contentious, and now it’s at a breaking point so if people are excited about voting, and excited about getting every single vote counted and making sure the people’s mandate is heard, that’s what I am trying to support here,” said attendee Ella, who preferred to keep their last name anonymous for safety concerns.
Attendees listen to speeches outside of the Ulster County Courthouse during the event. Photo courtesy of Susanna Granieri.
The gathering took place in front of the Ulster County Courthouse, with attendees dancing, holding signs and celebrating the election. Jaguar Mary X, who hosts “Midnight Medicine Journey” on Radio Kingston, spoke to attendees about a relationship with the invisible they speak about in every show. “I was just noting the signs, the wind is at our back. So the wind is an invisible force, it gives us the tool,” JMX said. “There are many invisible forces, our ancestral relationships, our love is an invisible force. There’s so many things that are supporting us right now that we can’t see.”
Jaguar Mary X, referred to as JMX, speaks to the crowd during the Celebrate the Vote event, and relates their show “Midnight Medicine Journey,” which airs on Radio Kingston, and says “the wind is at our backs.” Photo courtesy of Susanna Granieri.
JMX outlined opportunities that we have: to observe who is with us right here in the moment, and to remember that we are all human beings. “We can use people who are around us who aren’t interacting with us as human beings, the power that we have — two beings with feelings of hurt,” JMX said. “We are facing someone who is not able to interact with us that way and we need to move away.” Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher spoke next, saying that liberals and Democrats in America need to reclaim the flag. Gallagher described waking up the day after the election feeling as if she had a hangover, and “just shuffling to the bathroom for me was the walk of shame when I realized, this is the country I live in.” First, Gallagher lobbied for making every vote count, and not only polling but getting out and safely talking to people, rather than advocating behind screens. Also, she noted that the current leadership is not talking or listening to people, and needs to listen to what regular people want. “When I say leadership needs to change, the first thing I’m starting with is that white people need to be unapologetically anti-racist,” Gallagher said. “It is not enough to put a sign in the window [that says] Black Lives Matter. It’s not enough to go once in a while to the Walk 4 Black Lives on Wednesdays. We have to be unapologetically anti-racist. That means every time we see racism, we need to call it out.”
Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher speaks in emphasis regarding our country’s move forward. Photo courtesy of Susanna Granieri.
Gallagher went on to discuss the “common narrative” that voters share, no matter which side they vote for, that encompasses issues everyone focuses while completing their ballots — the COVID-19 financial crisis, climate change, tax policy reform, affordable housing, taking the money out of politics, “corporations are not people,” education funding prioritization, mental health services and treating health care as a human right. “We think that we’re talking about something different when we talk to our neighbor across the street who is supporting Donald Trump, but we are talking about the same things,” Gallagher said. “… We have to find common narratives without giving up basic human rights so every vote needs to count, and if our neighboring states need our support, we need to be ready to go and to do what needs to be done to demand that every vote is counted. I know that’s what we’re here for today.” As of Saturday, Nov. 8, former Vice President Joe Biden is now president-elect with his running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The nation was waiting with eyes glued to their screens waiting for Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia to finish tallying their votes. On Saturday night, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris both addressed the nation in celebration of their win, and called this a “time to heal” in America.