Workshops at Westchester Social Forum 2019


4:15pm The Deadly Dance: Gas and Nuclear Power


Westchester County is home to aging Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and the newly constructed high-pressure, fracked gas AIM Pipeline. Despite the impending closure of Indian Point, its colocation with the AIM Pipeline poses an ongoing threat of nuclear disaster.


Come and learn the story of how this deadly dance brought together the anti-nuclear and anti-fracking movements here in the Hudson Valley. We will discuss the ongoing efforts to protect the region from harm, what comes next, and how you can join in this fight for our future!


Workshop Leaders: Marilyn Elie, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition; Courtney Williams, Resist Spectra/SAPE/SEnRG


3pm Responding to Hate Speech, Hate Incidents, and Hate Crimes in Westchester County 

Learn about efforts at the grassroots, local government, and county levels to respond to and document hate incidents and hate crimes. Find out how these entities are working to strengthen a culture that promotes mutual respect, appreciation of differences, and stronger communities here in Westchester County.


Panelists include Susan Brownbill-Vega, Director of Community Affairs and Head of the Hate Crimes Unit at the Westchester County District Attorney's Office; Stu Hackel, Greenburgh Human Rights Committee and Coalition Against Hate; and Rev. Doris Dalton, Chair of the Westchester Human Rights Commission. Moderated by Stephanie Low, consultant and senior leader on the board of the National Coalition Building Institute.  


4:15pm Regenerative Health: Growing and Using Medicinal Plants of the Northeast

Within a fragile healthcare system, plants offer an important role as preventative and accessible medicine. Plants can be powerful allies to support our grounding, mental clarity, adrenal and musculoskeletal system. However, as herbalism grows in popularity and becomes commodified, we risk the distortion of this timeless tradition. Providing accessible medicine can be likened to building accessible food systems.


Learn about several local plants growing in the Northeast and how we can build mutually regenerative relationships for our survival. Throughout this discussion, participants will have chance to taste herbal teas and deepen their awareness of their own body systems.

Workshop Leader: Antonia Estela Pérez, certified permaculturist, yoga instructor, environmental and social justice educator, visual artist, herbalist, founding member of Brujas (an urban, free-form, creative and autonomous organization that seeks to build radical political coalition through youth culture) and co-founder of Herban Cura (an organization committed to bridging this ancestral wisdom in the urban dynamic, through workshops, gatherings and services).


3pm Understanding Power As A Tool For Undoing Racism 


The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond believes that racism is the primary barrier preventing communities from building effective coalitions and overcoming institutionalized oppression and inequities.


This workshop will offer a tool for understanding oppression in poor communities in order to dismantle racism and increase power. It serves as an introduction to The People’s Institute flagship program, Undoing Racism®, which teaches how to move beyond addressing the symptoms of racism to undoing the causes of racism so as to create a more just and equitable society.  


Workshop Leaders: David Peters, Trainer with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and Founder of New RoAR (New Rochelle Against Racism)


3pm El Árbol y sus curaciones Ancestrales (English translation below.  This workshop will be offered in Spanish with English translation available)


Terapia Natural a través de los árboles para combatir el estrés y ansiedad que genera el mundo moderno.


Tendremos un reencuentro con la naturaleza a través de la meditación con los árboles. Conoceremos usos terapéuticos y como los árboles nos brindan medicina natural ayudándonos a desarrollar los sentidos para nuestro bienestar. En esta clase podrás elaborar aceite de pino y conocer sus usos.

Workshop Leader: Xochitl (Martha Gomez) Danzante Azteca Conchera, Activista Vocera Indigena

3pm The Tree And Its Ancestral Healing Properties (Spanish translation above.  This workshop will be offered in Spanish with English translation available)


Natural tree therapy has the power to combat stress and anxiety created by the modern world.


We will have an encounter with nature through meditation with the trees. Get to know the therapeutic uses of trees and how they have an abundance of natural medicine to help us develop our senses for our wellbeing. In this workshop you will make your own pine oil and learn about its benefits.


Workshop Leader: Xochitl (Martha Gomez) Danzante Azteca Conchera, Indigenous activist and spokeswoman  


3pm Ending Racism and Injustice in our Food System


Our current food system was built on the stolen land and stolen labor of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other people of color. Members of the Northeast Farmers of Color Network are claiming their sovereignty and calling for reparations of land and resources so that they can grow nourishing food and distribute it in their communities.


This workshop will explore ways that the Westchester County community can support this life-affirming work.


Workshop Leaders: Amani Olugbala of Soul Fire Farm and local farmer comrade Doug DeCandia.  Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color)-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. Members raise and distribute life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid.


3pm Criminal Justice Reform  


Mass incarceration is one of the most significant domestic threats to the fabric of our democracy.  The country's high incarceration rates are not the result of serious crimes; instead they are the result of misguided policies such as mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws, and reductions in the availability of parole and other early release mechanisms. JustLeadershipUSA believes a decarcerated America is possible through targeted advocacy, strengthening formerly-incarcerated leadership, and support from its membership.


New York State Organizer Katie Schaffer will review with us where we are in terms of achieving effective bail and discovery law reform, and ending solitary confinement in New York State, plus what we can all do to support these crucial efforts.


Workshop Leaders: Katie Schaffer, JustLeadershipUSA


4:15pm Gun Violence Workshop led by local area high school students

Every day, 47 innocent American children are shot. Every year, 17,155 kids will contend with bullets rather than books. Gun violence is felt all over America, but people of color account for the majority of victims. Although 90% of Americans support gun reforms the issue has become exceptionally polarized and  most attempts at reform are blocked. The time for action is now. We, the people, must make change.


Learn how YOU can help make gun safety legislation a reality. We will discuss how to pressure legislators, conduct community forums, organize grassroots organizations to spread the word, and get voters motivated about this issue.


Workshop Leaders: Westchester Student Coalition Against Gun Violence


4:15pm New York Immigration Coalition workshop -  with Vanessa Agudelo - 

New York currently bars hundreds of thousands of immigrants in our state from obtaining driver’s licenses due to their immigration status. This results in major barriers to meeting the most basic needs of day-to-day life: traveling to work, school, grocery shopping, medical appointments, and places of worship. Out of necessity, many immigrants drive without licenses, putting them at odds with law enforcement, undermining trust between police and immigrant communities, and increasing the risk that a routine traffic stop will result in arrest, detention, or even deportation.  


The Green Light NY: Driving Together campaign is working to expand access to driver’s licenses to all residents of New York State, regardless of their immigration status. Expanding access to driver’s licenses is one way to help support marginalized communities, by bringing them out of the shadows and treating them fairly and equitably.  Learn about how you can get involved in our campaign to ensure that our most vulnerable community members have access to Driver's Licenses this year!

3pm Listening for the Voices of Survivors in the #MeToo Movement 

Since 2017 and the re-awakening of the #MeToo movement the issue of addressing the perpetrators of gender-based violence has taken center stage. Even as perpetrators are held accountable in the public square, the voices of survivors are silenced and they are left to heal on their own.  In this interactive workshop, we will look at the history of the #MeToo movement, consider some of the ways society can make sure survivors voices are amplified and imagine together a world where healing is possible and every individual can experience a life free from gender-based violence.

Kym McNair is the Coordinator for Community Education and Engagement at My Sisters’ Place, a domestic violence agency located in Westchester County, New York.  In her role she develops and facilitates trainings throughout Westchester County for health care professionals, law enforcement, college students, and religious communities to help them recognize and respond to Domestic/Intimate Partner violence in their professional and personal lives.   In addition, she coordinates and facilitates trainings for My Sisters’ Place staff.  In 2016 Ms. McNair received the Harriet Tubman Legacy Award from The Greater Centennial AME Zion Church and in 2017 she was honored by the American Jewish Committee Westchester/Fairfield for her community work on behalf of faith communities and her work at My Sisters’ Place.

4:15pm  How do we move forward getting Justice for Palestinians and Israelis while not having legislation that silences voices?  

People who care deeply about justice are enmeshed in this debate that includes BDS as a means of ending the oppression of the Palestinian people.  How do we find common ground to ensure the safety, rights and dignity of both peoples?


The discussion often gets derailed by the differing opinions about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and the attempt of proposed legislation that would penalize those who support BDS.  Please join us for a respectful conversation.  The panel will by moderated by Stephanie Low who for the past 25 years has served as a consultant and senior leader on the board of the National Coalition Building Institute,  Paul Warhit is a Jewish Community leader who opposes BDS and supports a vision of safety, rights and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians.  Robert Herbst is a civil rights attorney who is a member of JVP-Westchester and WESPAC and supports BDS.  Felice Gelman is a member of WESPAC who also supports BDS.  Abby Tolchinsky is a Westchester J Street leader and opposes BDS.

4:15pm  We’ve Raised the Age. Now What?

New York State has finally raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old. This means that 16 and 17 year olds can no longer be housed with adults. But where should they be housed, and what happens to older, still vulnerable youth? 

This workshop will outline Westchester’s plans for 16 and 17 year olds and will explore the issue of older youth and trends in nearby states and across the country.  The brain science that supports the legislation argues that young people do not fully mature until age 25, and that they should not be held liable as adults for criminal acts that they commit out of immaturity and impulsivity.  So why have we set the standard at age 18?  And what happens to older youth? Christian M. Philemon will share his insight. 

Christian M. Philemon is the Executive Director of the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester, Inc. This year, the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester celebrates 40 years of successfully removing 16 to 21 year olds from the adult system of incarceration, and providing programs and support to aid with their eventual return to their respective home communities. The program operates a residential facility in Mount Vernon, an adjacent facility housing its own education and aftercare program and runs an intensive re-entry family program.  The Youth Shelter is the only program of its kind in the state and remains the only resource for young people 16-21 in the adult system in Westchester.

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