Daily Archives: Apr 11, 2018

Puerto Rico’s left is rebuilding in the wake of two disasters: Hurricane María and a neoliberal onslaught.


Puerto Rico’s left-wing forces have long tried to unify, a goal that has proven difficult to reach and even harder to sustain. At its strongest, the Left has faced intense repression from both the United States and the island’s colonial government. Yet, activists and left-wing intellectuals agree that deeper differences account for the collective inability to build unity.

Historically, left-wing forces in Puerto Rico have split over the national question. Pro-independence groups, arguably the largest sector, have prioritized decolonization while socialists, feminists, and environmentalists have proposed a broader anti-oppression praxis centered on social and economic issues. Other groups, such as the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores, do not see these struggles as mutually exclusive, calling for the formation of a socialist republic in Puerto Rico.

Today a new wave of leftist organizing is emerging, one free from traditional Marxist or nationalist dogmas. This new Puerto Rican left is organizing for economic justice and against colonialism while putting a greater emphasis on gender, sexuality, and race. It aims to foster young leadership, articulate new solidarities, and revive the practice of community organizing. It is learning from the errors of the past while picking up the sediments of previous struggles.

But, if the Left wants to remain relevant, it must collaborate with the youth, community, feminist, farmer, and environmental-justice groups that are bringing new energy to the island.

The Struggle Against Neoliberalism

In 2010, Luis Fortuño’s conservative administration attacked the Puerto Rican public sector. The economy was in crisis, and Fortuño and his advisory council were confident that the problem had a familiar solution — economic austerity. His government went after unions, social policies, and most violently, higher education.

In response, a popular front came together in order to defeat a common enemy: Fortuño and the private interests he so faithfully represented. The island had seldom been so polarized, with neoliberal forces preparing to strike a fatal blow and opposition groups looking for ways to resist. The Puerto Rican left aimed to build an emancipatory struggle connected to the global wave of resistance that included Occupiers, Indignados, Pingüinos, and Arab Spring activists.

Labor leaders, scholar-activists, pro-independence leaders, feminists, the Christian left, environmentalists, lawyers, and other sectors seized the opportunity, forming a coalition of thirty-five organizations called Todo Puerto Rico por Puerto Rico. They aimed to ride the momentum built by University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students while preparing for the widely anticipated neoliberal attack on public higher education. Veteran organizers saw the student movement as a model to imitate as they expanded, sustained, and escalated the Todo Puerto Rico por Puerto Rico coalition.

The students used democratic decision-making and deliberative practices to plan direct actions, set the terms of negotiations with university administrators and government officials, and ratify the agreements made at the table. They also devoted significant efforts to recruiting new organizers for youth groups, including the Unión de Juventudes Socialistas, J-23, Juventud Hostosiana, Juventud del Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, Organización Socialista Internacional, Federación Universitaria Pro Independencia, and MASFALDA. These practices of democratic and inclusive debate — coupled with a strong organizational structure — allowed the students to occupy the UPR’s main campus for sixty-two days.

Thanks to this wave of activism, the Puerto Rican left scored important victories during the Fortuño administration (2009–2013). Not only did students stop a system-wide tuition hike and save tuition waivers for athletes, student workers, and honor students, but environmentalists also blocked the construction of a natural-gas pipeline and the development of the North Ecological Corridor, which would have sacrificed the area’s unique biodiversity in order to build luxury resorts. Civil-rights lawyers united to defeat a referendum in which the Fortuño administration tried to curtail the right to bail.

These sectors eventually came together at a massive People’s Assembly, where they organized an island-wide work stoppage and mobilized tens of thousands at marches. The movement began to resemble the campaigns that eventually drove the US military out of Vieques Island in 2003. It seemed like the stage was set for a broader emancipatory struggle, one that could transition from resistance to revolution. Unfortunately, the forces committed to continuing the colonial and neoliberal order in Puerto Rico proved to be stronger than those that fought to subvert it.

The Balance of Forces

The Puerto Rican left has resisted a number of neoliberal attacks in the past, but the fiscal and humanitarian crisis brought on by Hurricane María is testing this ability. In the wake of the storm, both veteran and new activists have had to migrate or accept jobs with entities complicit in neoliberal policy making. But left-wing activism is still taking place and, in some instances, deepening its practices.

Socialist, environmentalist, and youth-activist groups had set up a network of mutual-assistance centers, which grew in the aftermath of the storm. When these solidary brigades reached areas in the mountainous regions two weeks after María’s landfall, they discovered that residents didn’t need their help. They had already prepared, sourcing water from wells and storing enough food to last for weeks.

The organizers quickly recognized that the people’s needs entailed more than just basic goods. This lesson forced the Puerto Rican left to acknowledge that its relevance would depend on listening to and learning from these communities.

Since the storm, the farmers’ and food-sovereignty movements have drawn support from Vía Campesina and the climate-justice movement to provide rapid response to frontline communities affected by the disaster. Mutual-aid groups from the Puerto Rican diaspora and the Climate Justice Alliance have joined local activists to get supplies to local farmers, rebuild ecosystems, and coordinate relief efforts with local and US labor unions.

They are resisting the nonprofit, corporate, and government-led network that has raised millions of dollars in donations since the disaster, calling attention to the fact that funds raised in the name of relief have yet to reach the Puerto Rican population and denouncing government efforts to implement false solutions, such as privatizing public utilities and education. They are working to politicize the recovery process, which has already produced widespread frustration, manifesting as roadblocks, picket lines, and occupations of government buildings.

On the other hand, right-wing forces have strong allies not only among the Republican-led government in Washington but also within the island’s major political parties: the New Progressive Party (NPP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).

The NPP’s base includes religious fundamentalists, and its ample campaign funding comes from local capitalists. Sheltered by the darkness that swept the island after the hurricane, the NPP exploited the crisis to side step legislative hearings, silence the opposition, introduce a religious-freedom bill, grant no-bid contracts to dubious providers, and push conservative criminal-justice reforms.

In January, Governor Ricardo Rosselló confirmed his intentions to continue the legacy of his father, former governor Pedro Rosselló, by selling the island’s besieged power authority. A week later, he announced the privatization of the primary and secondary public school system. Last week he announced a sweeping labor reform and the closure of a number of government agencies.

His father had tried to win public support for similar schemes by claiming that the revenue gained from privatizing public goods would fund social spending, including public employee pensions and universal health care. Instead, his administration took on expensive mega-projects, which handed lucrative contracts over to campaign donors but failed to raise the money necessary to sustain welfare programs.

The government’s efforts to privatize Puerto Rico’s Public Power Authority (PREPA) and public education prove that the Puerto Rican right feels strong. The NPP has long wanted to enact these policies, but previous administrations deemed public sector unions — and the Left more generally — too strong to undertake such an attack.

The crisis that followed Hurricane María opened the door for the Rosselló administration to consolidate its plans. Line workers are exhausted, toiling around the clock to restore power while facing attacks from citizens who blame them for the government’s inability to restore power. Meanwhile, many teachers are working in schools without electricity.

The privatization announcement was carefully timed. Vulture funds have been looking over the governor’s shoulder, pressuring him to include PREPA’s privatization in the fiscal recovery proposal. Though it’s ironic that someone who ran as an erudite technocrat with a sophisticated plan for every possibility failed to prepare for a natural disaster. Selling off the few remaining public assets was always part of his vision — even if he never revealed it on the campaign trail.

A week after the announcement, UTIER, the PREPA workers’ union, issued a call for solidarity across all sectors of the Puerto Rican left to renew their resistance to privatization. Many have answered.

The new generation of leftist organizers has shed much of the old left’s baggage. While they disagree about tactics, these debates have not been as divisive as they once were. Younger activists did not have take sides on the extremely divisive issue of armed struggle, as those groups have mostly disbanded. Now debate centers on electoral participation, on mutual-assistance projects, and on diversification.

The Electoral Question

Pedro Albizu Campos once referred to ballot boxes as coffins designed for the burial of the Puerto Rican nation. Under his leadership, the nationalist party militarized, rejecting the electoral process. The Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) stepped in to provide an electoral alternative for left-wing voters. Though these two sectors have come together to resist militarism, right-wing influences on public education, the displacement of marginalized communities, repression, and environmentally hazardous projects, the disagreement over electoral participation has persisted.

In 2016, the Obama administration created an unelected Fiscal Control Board with the power to impose fiscal policies in order to recover Puerto Rico’s ballooning debt. That year’s elections revealed a growing discontent with the island’s three main parties and with the electoral process more generally. Between 2012 and 2016, Puerto Rico experienced a remarkable 22 percent drop in electoral turnout (from 77 to 55 percent). While these numbers are still higher than turnout in the United States, Puerto Rico has historically experienced voter turnout nearing 80 percent.

The Left has not figured out how to address voters’ obvious frustration. Leftists who reject the electoral process argue that participating in elections legitimizes the colonial order, while others argue that boycotting will limit the Left’s ability to curtail government corruption and hold elected officials accountable. This group is further divided between those who support the PDP in order to defeat right-wing candidates and those that who support the more left-wing parties, the PIP and the Working People’s Party (PPT). The first tactic handed the PDP slim victories against two recent NPP reelection bids: both Rosselló and Fortuño lost by a margin of less than .6 percent. Without the Left’s support, Puerto Rico would have had uninterrupted NPP rule since 2000.

In recent elections, neither the PIP nor the PPT has passed the 3 percent threshold necessary to remain in the ballot for future elections. The pro-independence party has failed to do so since 2004, but have been able to win at large seats in the House and Senate. The PPT, which participated in elections for the first time in 2012, has never had legislative representation. Given this landscape, the Left’s ability to claim electoral victory seems significantly limited.

Various voices within the Left have suggested forming a party combining the PIP and the PPT, but party leaders don’t agree — at least not yet. Some argue that the Left must address its internal differences and define the purpose of these alliances before uniting. These critics only feel compelled to join a coalition focused on building radical democracy, as opposed to one that prioritizes the question of status.

Power to the People

Despite these electoral failures, left-wing forces have shown their strength in the streets and in communities.

Umbrella organizations like Jornada Se Acabaron las Promesas and the Concertación Puertorriqueña en Contra de la Junta have joined culture workers like Papel Machete and AgitArte to mount a sustained campaign against the Fiscal Control Board.

Feminists from growing organizations like the Colectiva Feminista en Construcción have built popular resistance to patriarchy, neoliberalism, and authoritarianism. They disrupted two of the island’s main highways on two separate occasions, mobilized hundreds for a feminist assembly, formed a mutual assistance center, and forced the resignation and prosecution of Guaynabo mayor Hector O’Neill for sexual assault against a municipal employee.

An amalgam of leftist organizations called for an island-wide work stoppage and thousands flooded Puerto Rico’s financial district in Hato Rey during the May 1 demonstrations.

The farmers’ movement has grown dramatically in the past decade, with a growing number of independent and sustainable farming projects underway. Activist leaders have joined other activists at the United Nations climate-change negotiations and have strengthened their ties with the anti-capitalist farmer’s movement Vía Campesina.

The environmental-justice movement has successfully mobilized against pipeline projects and used the media attention following Hurricane María to call for a just energy transition.

The network of mutual assistance centers throughout the island has breathed new life into the Left. They are working to meet the needs of isolated communities that the state, local, and federal governments have ignored, moving the people from resilience to resistance.

While some have warned that the Left should also pressure the state to meet its responsibilities to the population, these activists have criticized the false dichotomy of bottom-up and top-down approaches to organizing. The vitality of the Puerto Rican left, they argue, must come from a synthesis of these approaches.

Emancipatory Diversity

Puerto Rican feminists argue that the Left’s vitality will also depend on its ability to build more inclusive leadership groups. While left-wing groups have long fought to diversify government, schools, and other societal institutions, some have resisted internal diversification.

Historically, the Puerto Rican left has been at its strongest when it has identity, ideological, and tactical diversity. The upsurge that it experienced in the 1960s came when leaders focused on organizing marginalized groups and workers, fostering unity in diversity, strengthening youth and student groups, opening dialogue across different sectors of the Left, and developing international relationships of solidarity. These approaches encouraged collaboration despite disagreements about tactics, electoral participation, and organizing priorities. It also allowed the Left to deploy new tactical repertoires, mounting massive campaigns, organizing strikes, and supporting cultural work.

Some have dismissed these calls to diversify, expressing a desire to avoid what they consider a postmodern or neoliberal concern for identity. But others see diversity as a form of strength. Adopting this second approach entails building opportunities for dialogue despite differences, amplifying marginalized group’s voices and perspectives, and prioritizing the issues of oppressed groups while fighting against shared grievances. Most importantly, it involves building leadership from the bottom up and trusting those without prestigious educations who possess the knowledge that comes from the pedagogy of the oppressed.

New groups have taken important steps in this direction. Members of the Juventud Hostosiana, which took a prominent role in the most recent student strike, have embraced diversity and declared themselves intersectional feminists, anti-colonialists, and ecologists.

The leaders of the feminist organization Colectiva Feminista en Construcción also played active roles in the student movement. The Colectiva, now a powerful force within the Puerto Rican left and in Puerto Rican politics more generally, has adopted an intersectional feminist organizing praxis and pushed the Left to fulfill its commitment to ending oppression by aiming to defeat capitalism and patriarchy simultaneously.

The Path Forward

Moving forward, the American and international left must refrain from using Puerto Ricans as a pawn in their battles against the Trump administration and afford them a substantive role in these efforts. Rather than framing the urgency of supporting Puerto Ricans in terms of their US citizenship, advocates must ground solidarity in the values of radical democracy and emancipation.

This orientation runs counter to how mainstream American politicians treat Puerto Ricans. The Democrats have launched voter-registration campaigns in hopes of using recent migrants as cannon fodder for the war against the Republicans — a cause that few Puerto Ricans seem eager to join. Liberals hope to enlist the Puerto Rican diaspora in the 2018 midterm elections, forgetting that Puerto Ricans, and Latinxs more generally, have often failed to reap the promised benefits of Democratic electoral victories.

In the days that followed Hurricane María, Puerto Ricans took matters into their own hands. Groups of retired line workers and electricians restored power in isolated sectors. Communities came together to rebuild their own bridges, literally and metaphorically. Collectively, they dispelled the myths that portray them as lazy and dependent on the government.

Hurricane María did not only bring devastation to the island. It also opened opportunities for both the Left and the Right. In the next months, the Left can defeat the neoliberal attacks on its public services and institutions, but only if it continues to embrace the energy of the alliances of unions, environmentalists, farmers, students, and scholar-activists that have formed on the ground, in the Puerto Rican diaspora, and internationally.

Frustrated by Congress’ response to Hurricane Maria, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is preparing to drop a ‘hammer’ in targeted states in 2018.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló says months have gone by since he’s talked to President Donald Trump.

By: Politico –Edward-Isaac Dovere

But more than 200 days since Hurricane Maria made landfall—what Rosselló in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast called “the most catastrophic event in the modern history of the United States”—the governor is gearing up to get everyone else’s attention in November: Rosselló and allies are finalizing plans to push their way into the midterms on the mainland.

The Trump administration and Congress offered prayers and promises for help last year, but many Puerto Ricans haven’t seen the follow-through. Six months in, 55,000 Puerto Ricans still don’t have electricity.

“It’s all based on one thing: political power. We don’t have it,” Rosselló said.

Rosselló and allies want to reward the politicians who’ve helped and punish those who haven’t.

“We need to demonstrate that we have a hammer,” Rosselló said. “Congressmen need to know that if we go to their office, they can’t just give us a happy talk, as has happened in the past. So, if you’re going to give us happy talk and then take actions that clearly affect the people of Puerto Rico, then the only strategy that we have left … is to go to your districts.”

Rosselló kicked off the effort in January with a trip to Florida, which was already home to many Puerto Ricans before they were joined by many others who had been displaced by the hurricane—but which also holds critical elections this year for governor and U.S. Senate in addition to a collection of tight House races.

With Senate and House races getting priority, Rosselló and allies have already started voter-registration drives in Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, and are eyeing New Jersey, Ohio and Texas. They’ll build a list of voters to activate, put money and effort into keeping after them throughout the year and push them to the polls for the primaries and midterms. There will be more travel and fundraising to support the efforts.

Rosselló’s model: Cuban-Americans, who for 60 years have mobilized what are still fewer than 2 million people into a force that’s shaped American politics and foreign policy. Compare that with the 5.6 million Puerto Ricans concentrated in just a few states.

Details are still coming together, but Rosselló thinks that under these circumstances he can kick-start that kind of action in just a few months and keep building it into the 2020 election.

“Puerto Rico has never had a structure like the one that we’re forming. It has never demonstrated to have the national wherewithal and political power that we hope to showcase in this election,” he said. “And if we do that, I think it will start pressing on these issues of second-class citizenship, equality and then what are the solutions for Puerto Rico.”

Rosselló grew up the son of a governor but went about as far away from the family business as he could: first to MIT, then to the University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. He envisioned a life for himself in science. But Puerto Rican statehood remained a passion, and eventually that pulled him back to the island full time, and into politics more broadly. In 2016, he was elected governor at age 37, and likes to point out that he’s the only governor in the country who’s anywhere close to being a millennial (he’s older than the cutoff by about a year and a half).

He was elected to a much different job than the one he’s had since October. He expected to use his bully pulpit to push for Puerto Rico statehood. Instead, he’s been trying to get the island back to the basics of food, electricity and running water—though that, he argues, is about statehood, too.

It’s great, he says, that post-hurricane, so many more Americans now know that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Now it’s time to do something about it.

“When they ask the question ‘why’ [Puerto Rico has been treated differently], it opens this whole new Pandora’s box of reasons that I think showcase one of the weaknesses that we have as a nation. It hurts me because I’m a very proud U.S. citizen,” Rosselló said. “But how can we talk about democracy in Cuba, in Venezuela, in Afghanistan, if in the United States, we have 3.5 million U.S. citizens that are disenfranchised, essentially?”

It’s personal; it’s professional. He has uncles who made it to March without any power at home. So did some employees in the governor’s office.

“Some people ask me, you know, ‘What do you say to somebody that doesn’t have energy?’ You can’t say anything, right? I mean, I can explain all the process and so forth, but all I can do is share their frustration,” he said.

One sure way to rile him: Bring up the idea that Americans are apprehensive about Puerto Rican statehood because 50 states is a round number, and that many people find it hard to envision an American flag with another star on it or a U.S. Senate with 102 members.

He’s become a regular arguing the case for statehood behind closed doors in Washington, and wrangling Puerto Rican leaders from both parties for an ongoing series of public events. “We don’t want to be more. We don’t want to be less. We just want to be equal,” said former Puerto Rican Gov. Carlos Romero.

Rosselló says it’s a mission everyone else should be cheering on. Puerto Ricans have voted for statehood in their own organized elections, so now they need Congress to initiate the formal process with a mandated vote, which if successful, begins a process that includes a formal petition for inclusion, followed by House and Senate votes and the signature of the president.

Rosselló is sure Puerto Ricans will pass it again, and believes the combination of the hurricane, Trump and the pressure in Congress opens a window in which statehood can actually happen.

“I can see that, if we showcase that we have political power, that we can affect different races and that we’re serious about making this push,” Rosselló said.

Or, the governor says, there’s the less desirable alternative of just cutting Puerto Rico loose and letting it be an independent country.

“What I am trying to do,” Rosselló said, “is help facilitate the unfinished business of American democracy, where we finally eliminate colonialism.”

Popular free event returns on June 18 with information to assist older adults, caregivers in

long-term care decisions 

Free parking, refreshments, box lunch available with registration for Elder Law Day


ERIE COUNTY, NY— The Erie County Department of Senior Services and the Center for Elder Law and Justice have announced that Elder Law Day 2018 will be held on Monday, June 18 from 8:30 AM – 1:30 PM at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, 120 Church Street, Buffalo. Now in its eighteenth year, Elder Law Day features seminars on legal issues of interest to older adults, caregivers, and aging service professionals to assist them in making decisions about their health, long-term care needs, and financial well-being. Seminar topics include Medicare & Medicaid; Wills & Trusts; Elder Abuse & Mistreatment; Special Needs Trusts; LGBT issues; Living Independently at Home; Veterans’ Rights; and more.

“Each year Elder Law Day provides a great opportunity for seniors and caregivers to learn about their rights, get answers to their questions, and build a plan for the future. Popular and fun, these events have proven to be a good way to get information into the hands of people who need it,” said Erie County Commissioner of Senior Services Tim Hogues. “I encourage seniors, caregivers, and anyone who needs the latest information on any aspect of senior life to attend and get the help they need right on the spot.”

Additional sponsors of Elder Law Day 2018 include AARP-NY; the Bar Association of Erie County; Network in Aging; the NYS Bar Association, Elder Law Section; and SUNY Buffalo Law School. Community agency partners providing aging services will be on hand at the event to provide handout information and talk with attendees between sessions. Elder Law day is a free event for all, but only registered guests will have access to free parking, morning refreshments and a box lunch.

Attendees at Elder Law Day also have an opportunity to pre-register online for free, 15-minute consultations with an attorney, health insurance counselor, and/or case manager for options counseling.  For more information or to register by telephone, call (716) 858-6864 or visit erie.gov/ELD .

A voluntary $5 donation will be gratefully appreciated at check-in.

For more information:

On the Erie County Department of Senior Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/seniorservices/ .

Six west side Buffalo leaders to be recognized for their contributions.

West Side Community Services (WSCS) will honor six community leaders, three adults and three teenagers, at the second annual REMARKABLE West Siders Awards on Sunday, April 15, 2018 at Resurgence Brewery, 1250 Niagara Street, Buffalo. The event is 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. with the awards presentation beginning at 1:30.

The 2018 honorees are:

  • John F. Siskar, PhD, Buffalo State College
    At Buffalo State College, Dr. Siskar supports initiatives that have the potential to create systemic change in our schools and community. He oversees three centers: The Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education, the Community Academic Center, and the Pre-collegiate Academic Success Center. Dr. Siskar oversaw the creation of the Community Academic Center which opened in a storefront on Buffalo’s west side in 2011. The center has served 12,350 residents in concert with 32 faculty and 3,364 Buffalo State students in the delivery of programs and support.  He also developed a network founded on the principles of the Promise Neighborhood initiative that includes over 50 partner organizations committed to working together to help children succeed.

  • Rubens Mukunzi, CEO and publisher of Karibu News
    Rubens Mukunzi grew up in Rwanda where he aspired to be an activist for change in the 1990s as the country healed from genocide. In 2000 at the age of 18 and still in high school, Mr. Mukunzi started a handwritten newsletter focusing on issues impacting youth. He then worked as a journalist for a radio station before starting a newspaper in 2009 targeting education in Rwanda. The government though did not approve of his critique of the education system and tried to intimidate him. Mr. Mukunzi obtained a visa to come to the U.S. in 2013 and settled in Buffalo where in 2015  he started Karibu News with a loan from the Westminster Economic Development Initiative. Karibu News not only gives refugees and immigrants a voice, but also bridges a gap between English-speaking and non-English speaking populations by publishing in many different languages, including English. Rubens believes Karibu News is the first and only multilingual paper in the state to focus on refugee and immigrant populations.

  • Sister Kathleen Dougherty, Sisters of St. Mary of Namur
    Sister Kathleen Dougherty grew up in Kenmore and joined the sisterhood at age 18. A special education teacher for her entire career, Sister Kathleen has a strong interest in helping young people facing challenges. For 20 years, Sister lived in South Carolina, teaching kids with profound learning disabilities. She later transferred to Lockport, where she continued to teach for another 10 years. Sister returned to Buffalo and moved into St. Mary’s of Namur in 2015. At that time, a leader at the Somali-Bantu Youth Association on Forest Avenue contacted Canisius College asking for tutoring help. Sister Kathleen volunteered and learned quickly that the need for tutoring in English language, writing and reading among the newly arrived refugees was considerable, and she acquired space and additional volunteers to work with the youth. Through community connections, Sister Kathleen also helped to link the Youth Association with farming resources. The result of this outreach has been the creation of Providence Farm, 10-acres of land in East Aurora where Somali-Bantu families cultivate crops to feed their families. Sister Kathleen has one primary goal for the youth she tutors: “I want them to be able to compete in school.”


The 2018 teen honorees:


  • Issa Abdulkadir – Nominated by Keith Kristich of PUSH Buffalo

Issa is involved with social justice meetings and rallies in Buffalo and around the country. He has fought for increased school funding and advocated for public transit improvements. Issa was instrumental in starting the Youth Action Team, a program for youth looking to make positive changes in their communities. The group meets weekly and teaches other young people about justice issues, political education and community organizing.


  • Ingabire Adam – Nominated by Diane Picard, MAP Executive Director

Ingabire has been with the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) for almost three years and has become an outstanding leader among her peers and in the community. She not only understands issues of food and climate justice but dedicates her time and energy towards making change in the community. In the last year, she facilitated the Next Generation & Climate Change workshop for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) Conference in Baltimore and the World On Your Plate Conference in Buffalo. As a Muslim woman she advocated to get more non-pork options at her school, Emerson School of Hospitality. She also wrote an article titled “How I Got Involved in my Community and How Other young People Can too!” which was published in the Karibu News last summer.


  • Abdikadir Farah – Nominated by Bobby Calvaneso of West Side Community Services

Abdikadir Farah “Abdi K” has shown leadership qualities since his first day at West Side Community Services in October 2017. Abdi is always quick to volunteer with events and projects and has played peace-keeper among his peers. A few months ago, Abdi’s phone was stolen by a peer while he was playing basketball at WSCS. When the thief was identified, Abdi was asked what he thought should happen to the person. Instead of wanting to prosecute, Abdi chose a different approach. He replied, “We should give him another chance, because everybody makes mistakes. Sometimes people do things they shouldn’t but they aren’t bad kids, they just made a mistake.” Abdi is also a member of the PUSH Youth Action Team, where he advocates for social justice.


West Side Community Services is located at 161 Vermont Street, Buffalo. WSCS improves education, financial capability, health & wellness, and prevention across the lifespan for a diverse membership through activities and programs that identify and build on the strength in the community.


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