Community Members Gather To Form Hudson Valley Hate Free Zone

Jan 16, 2017

Days before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, two organizations held an assembly in Beacon this weekend to kick off the formation of the Hudson Valley Hate Free Zone. 

The idea stemmed from a move in Queens in December to declare Jackson Heights a hate free zone. In fact, organizers in the Hudson Valley showed a film clip of the Queens movement. The January 14 gathering in Beacon brought together an audience some 200 strong, from all over the Hudson Valley. The Hate Free Zone is a network of people and institutions who have committed to standing up against hate, and to protect communities coming under attack.

(end of Alfredo’s speech in Spanish)

That’s Alfredo Pacheco, who lives in Orange County, thanking those in attendance for coming to create a Hate Free Zone and peace and unity in the community. He is with Community Voices Heard and a leader of the Hudson Valley Hate Free Zone. Pacheco is undocumented.

“My biggest fear is right now being deported,” Pacheco says. “He make a comment people about deporting 2 million people in the first 100 days of he gets elected so that’s my biggest fear because I have family here, and I don’t want to leave my family here.”

“I’m really excited to fight with you, to fight to build a loving and a peaceful and an accepting community not just in the Hudson Valley but all over. Thank you,” Jaime says.

And that’s New Rochelle resident Maria Jaime. She’s board president of the Hudson Valley Community Coalition. From Mexico, Jaime has been in the U.S. since age 2, and is under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She fears that the incoming Trump administration will do away with this immigration policy. Jaime says she now sees the importance of sharing her story.

“So particularly in my community no one ever said, go share your story and things will be better. It’s always, remain quiet,” Jaime says. “So the more that we speak about it, the more that our local legislators, politicians know we’re in the community, the more they’re going to listen to us.”

Jaime is a college graduate and works as a marketing analyst with a firm in Westchester.

“So realizing that our whole community, whether this impacts directly or not, is really coming together and saying, we’re here for each other, that’s really impactful. And I think that the community organizing the power we have is more powerful than any law that can happen against us,” Jaime says. “  So the fact that we’re mobilizing and really understanding that we can make a change, that’s the biggest thing that I think I’m really excited about.”

She says three priorities of the Hudson Valley Community Coalition are providing rapid response to deportation orders, establishing sanctuary cities and galvanizing community involvement. Ali Muhammad is a city councilmember in Beacon involved in trying to unite the community.

“As a Muslim and as an African American and as a local elected official, I can help organize, mobilize people. And I also understand where people can feel hurt and I can understand where people have felt hate because I felt hatred towards myself but, like Martin Luther King said on his weekend, positivity begets positivity,” Muhammad says. “We’re not going to have violence. We’re going to be non-violence, non-violence. We’re going to meet their hatred with love. And that’s what we have to do.”

Joyce Bressler travelled from Stony Point in Rockland County to attend the Beacon gathering. Bressler is a member of Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith intentional community dedicated to the practice and study of hospitality, nonviolence and justice.

“We’re also having conversations about being a safe space, a sanctuary for people who might be experiencing hate or discrimination or deportation,” says Bressler. “We’re not offering ourselves as that right now.  We’re just having conversations with other people in Rockland County and in Westchester County to see how we can help as well.”

Again, Beacon councilmember Muhammad.

“President Obama said it in his farewell address, citizen, the most important role that we have in this government. It’s the most important role. And there’s a lot that we can do as these positions and titles and roles, as individuals. We have to come together,” says Muhammad. “It says here, what can you do? I’m going to show up. I’m going to host a house meeting. I’m going to build institutional power. And I’m  going to see as an elected official if we could pass a resolution to make Beacon a hate free zone and then take it to the county and see if they will help pass this and make it a hate free zone. It’s not just symbolic. It’s more than that.”

He was reading from a Hudson Valley Hate Free Zone pledge. Dominique Suddith is with Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson and a leader of the hate free zone.

“We have different  communities with diverse issues that are being affected every single day. And with this new administration coming to pass, we’re going to be even more targeted, so we needed to find a way for us to band together and stand strong,” Suddith says. “We need a system in place that’s going to protect all communities.”

She says the idea is to have a network of support and resources throughout the Hudson Valley, such as the ability to provide legal services to someone targeted for deportation who otherwise could not afford legal assistance. Monday marked the beginning of a Hudson Valley week of resistance.