With your support, I am embracing my new role as President of the New York State League and I thank you for the opportunity to lead LWVNYS during our centennial celebrations, the celebration of the 19th Amendment and a challenging election season.
The first order of business for me is to address the 15 “Directions to the Board” LWV members offered at the end of our state convention in June. We will review all of the directives over the course of the next few months and post them and our responses on the website. I thought my first communication with you as President should address the first directive which requested that the League of Women Voters of New York State acknowledge and apologize for the betrayal of suffragists of color during the long march toward universal suffrage. We are a piece of a National organization and for this I am going to let them speak for us.
In 2018, Brent Staples wrote a forthright column in the NY Times, How the Suffrage Movement Betrayed Black Women. Chris Carson, President LWVUS and Virginia Kase, LWVUS CEO, responded to the column in a letter to the editor, that did not get published by the paper but was widely distributed through League communications, blogs and on the website.
It is a good time for all of us to consider how members of a non-partisan political organization respond in the current hyper-partisan environment, to the distressing events and the partisan and offensive rhetoric that we are subjected to daily. As members of the League of Women Voters of New York State, we can and should respond with outrage to policies that inflict harm on immigrants and children, the degradation of women of color in the Congress and people of color in our communities by members of our government, and the often bewildering disregard for basic human rights and decency.
Take a breath to consider what you say or post on websites or on social media before responding and guard our non-partisan reputation zealously. Speak out, without using inflammatory language that denigrates individuals or candidates.
LWVUS is speaking out, exercising our power and working with other good government and immigrant groups supporting their efforts to bring relief, decency and respect for human rights to our immigration policies and fight xenophobia. LWVNYS is speaking out with the power of coalition partners sending a warning letter to the Rensselaer County Board of Elections about the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) violations and also urging the Governor to sign the Maternal Mortality Review Board bill (A 3276 Joyner/ S 1819 Rivera).
Let’s exercise our power as a grassroots organization, at the local, state and national levels as a key player in coalitions, as a voice supporting our priorities that all of our elected officials will hear and, in the courts, defending democratic institutions and voting rights.
By Suzanne Stassevitch, President, LWVNYS