( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Community Voices Is Standing Up For Change In Black And Brown Communities
Guest Contributor: Julio Taku
Community Voices Heard (CVH) is a multi-racial organization of women of color and low-income communities across New York State. CVH started in 1994 when President Clinton introduced “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act”. This act gave the state control of welfare and ended six decades of federal government control of the programs. This made it difficult for the unemployed or housing insecure about gaining access to welfare programs and benefits. They formed CVH and organized through mutual aid, policy changes, and campaign lobbying to elect officials that better serve the community. CVH is currently in NYC & Hudson Valley (Westchester Co., Rockland Co., Orange Co., Dutchess Co.)
CVH is an organization that uplifts the disenfranchised, provides information and resources needed for a sustainable future. It is an organization led by Black Women and Women of Color. Juanita O. Lewis, Executive Director of Community Voices Heard, says, “They wanted their voices to be heard and to be engaged in the politics that affected their lives.”
Juanita O. Lewis is a Sierra Leonean, by way of St. Paul, Minnesota, and has been a resident of New York since 2009. She began her mutual aid and organized work with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). She developed a passion for organizing and building community with Black women to help other Black women and assist people in creating better opportunities for their communities and improving their environment.
Through mutual aid, CVH engages demographics of people who are out of the loop in the political spheres of their communities. Their priorities are:
- Housing inequality
- Getting proper funding for the New York City Housing Authority.
- Increasing voter registration.
- Disclosing and resolving healthcare and income disparities.
CVH has a sister organization called Community Voices Heard Power! that handles all lobbying, electoral work, and campaign endorsements. One initiative is the Follow Black Women campaign. The campaign focuses on issues that matter to black women politically in their neighborhoods and daily lives. The goal of the survey is to have 5,000 Black women take part. To participate in the survey, visit Follow Black Women.
64% of Black women are registered in the most populous counties in New York State. “When Black women are engaged, they become active, which is why we are targeting Black women in our work,” says Lewis.
Gubernatorial elections will be underway shortly, and CVH will undoubtedly be fully active. Whether it be door-to-door people engagement, mailing lists, canvassing community events, or virtual meetings.
“Our continued level of change, leadership development, and campaign development makes us as powerful and stand out as we are,” says Lewis.
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