Commissioner Responses - Neighborhood Check-In: Southern Tier, Cuba, NY

These responses were given at the conclusion of the Neighborhood Check-in. They have been lightly edited for clarity.

Larry Cox

There's a growing recognition that we can’t solve these problems unless we start to come together, that no one can solve them alone. That we have so much in common in terms of the kind of pain that’s been inflicted on our communities and on ourselves and if we can come together, we can build something that can force the government to restructure its priorities. To have a kind of revolution of morals that will say that we can’t live like this anymore and we have to create a different kind of society. So I just want to applaud you for being part of that process and to say that I’m committed, and I know that other people here are committed to making sure that these stories are put together with those stories and that together we build something that can change the conditions, not only for ourselves but for our children and for our grandchildren. Thank you very much.

Sahar Alsahlani

I want to say thank you for honoring me and having me listen to your stories and to be part of a community that, you know, we’re a little bit in la la land down in New York City I think, but our problems are very, very, very, very interconnected. And I think one of the best things is that we are bridging the gap, which there is no gap, but a lot of people don’t see the bridge between religion and social justice and the issues that we have. And the more that we realize that people of faith or no faith or their communities are working on parallel issues that do intersect, whether it’s mass incarceration or a  glorified refugee camp that stays there for years, the systems of oppression are all there. Whether it’s stopping, it’s basically stopping anybody from reaching their basic human potential, given by our creator. And I just want to thank all of you for being here and to note the value of lobbying. Rabbi Heschel said that we are praying with our feet when he marched with Dr. King and any kind of lobbying or work you do for social justice is a form of worship. Some say it’s even holier than, you know, praying five times a day or fasting. So continue to do this and never underestimate the power of our contributions. We have money, sort of. We have real estate. We have manpower. We have youth group. We can make a lot of noise. We can cook a lot of food. So we have potential to mobilize and when the religions come together, there ain’t no stopping us. So thank you.

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Suzanne Flierl Krull

So along with everyone else up here I want to thank you all, especially those of you who shared tonight. My own trauma history makes public speaking, believe it or not, very, very difficult. And so, I understand the barriers that you all faced to come here tonight and to share your stories. So thank you for being brave and bold and fierce fighters for what you believe in. My good friend Randi talks about expertise, and there are some folks in this room that shared as service providers and professionals who have a lot of content expertise, and that’s important. But those of you who shared tonight who struggle, who struggled in their past, who struggle now, and who may leave these doors tonight and continue to struggle are experts also. You have content expertise that we need to hear and so keep sharing, keep telling your stories, keep asking others who struggle with you to do the same.

David Decker

Thank you, everyone. This has been an eye-opening experience. There’s a lot of issues out there that need to be handled. And I look forward to serving on the commission here on the local level and trying to do what we can and I just want to echo what Suzanne said. We need to applaud you for sharing your stories and we look forward to hearing more between now and the end of July. Hopefully, formulate some ideas, one thing I would like to say is that, many, many years ago, our churches played a huge role in helping with some of these circumstances that we’ve heard about tonight. And we’ve got completely, not completely gotten away from it, but to a large extent, away from that. And I think that we can work on unifying and coming together as different faiths. I think we can make some real headway. It’s a start, it can be the basis for the program, but getting back to more faith-based initiatives and so forth will be huge in solving this problem and I look forward to continuing to, as I said, work with the commission and help to bring it to light. Thank you.

Yogini Kothari

My first reaction to the stories that we heard is just heart wrenching. I’ve never had to think about what I would eat, where will I sleep, or will I have transportation? So for me, it was really shocking to hear a lot of stories. I thought, seeing as I am taken care of by the government, because my mother in law lived in England, she has never worked a day in her life. She was a homemaker. She did take care of her children well. And of course worked from five in the morning until nine at night just taking care of the family, but then she had a stroke and I visited her a few times. I was shocked to see how she was taken of by the government. Two nurses came four times a day to her house, took care of her, started giving her breakfast, giving her a bath, came back at night the fourth time to change her clothes, give her a sponge bath, and put her to sleep.

Even though she was staying with my youngest sister-in-law, they lived together, but this was the government felt their own duty toward this woman regardless whether she had four doctors around, one in the house and three in the neighborhood who lived close by. So to me, what do you call a great nation? I think how well they take care of their citizens is what makes a great nation, not how much we have, or how many allies we have, or how many airplanes we can fly, or how many bombs we can blow. And a lot of the time, I wonder, are we really in a democratic world? Because democracy means, it’s made by us, and why would we not do something that’s good for us? Why are we all sitting here and crying?

So is it only about a right to vote? Which a lot of the time we’re pressed between a rock and a hard place to choose one, is that the only duty we have? Or is there something beyond that we have any rights to do, I wonder? Or we have those left poor or working hard so we don’t have time to think anything else or do anything else. I mean, you all, we heard people here want to make a change, but how we can, because most of us, those who are working, are working away, and it comes the weekend, you take care of the house, home, and need some time to relax. So how will we break this cycle?

And I heard the stories of young people with no fault, they’re in jail and cannot pay the bail. There’s someone, I forget her name, Patti, and Patti’s son. But who has worked hard and once the husband is not there, to only have one person to keep the house and do everything else, it’s just all of a sudden, your life turns upside down. And that is when the big money has to come to bail out, which is our government. We have no rights, we pay taxes, we pay everything that we need to pay, but then when it comes pay back time, we have absolutely no rights. And that is where we have to start thinking how we can get those rights back to us and really call it a democracy. Otherwise it’s another form of dictatorship.

Brad Weaver

It’s, oddly enough for me, hard for me to put some words together based upon what I have heard today. It has touched me and moved an idealistic part of my heart to hear that we have such strong and unyielding people who will keep going forward to do the best they can, to make the best they can, and are willing to share and motivate other people to make the changes that we need to make. Thank you so much for allowing me to listen to your stories.

I called this, I wanted this to be a neighborhood check-in. And I’m glad I checked in on you. And I’m proud to have neighbors like you. And I hope I can represent you with this commission to the level that you deserve. And I’m gonna do something because I can, with the microphone. “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” And the spirit that you showed today is the spirit that inspired this preamble for the Constitution. Thank you.