Sunday, June 10, 2018, our co-founder and Distinguished Fellow, Dorothy F. Cotton died peacefully in her residence, Kendal at Ithaca, with loved ones at her bedside. She was a remarkably courageous leader, an inspiring educator, a great spirit, and our dear friend. Thank you for the many kind messages that we at the Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI) have been receiving from far and near. She is sorely missed. There will be a public memorial service for her in the future, and we will let everyone know the details once they are confirmed.
Please read the wonderful tribute to Dorothy Foreman Cotton written by her friend and colleague, Dr. Clayborne Carson, Founding Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.
Feel free to contact us:
DCI Senior Fellow, firstname.lastname@example.org
DCI Senior Fellow and Program Coordinator, email@example.com
Friday, 3/10/17 9:30 am – 11:30 am
Free & Open to All
The forum will bring together panelists from a cross-section of professions, including government, academia, law, and small business to discuss the ramifications of prematurely or illegally considering conviction information, and the role it may play in preventing people with past convictions from receiving a fair chance.
|Please join outstanding activists and panelists, Nancy Bereano, Martha Ferger, Gabe Shapiro and Nicole LaFave, and come share stories of how you’ve taken action for social justice. Free, open to everyone!
Saturday June 25th, 2016 – 2:00 to 4:30pm
The History Center in Tompkins County
Sharing Our Stories of Action for Social Justice and Transformation
A series presented by The History Center in Tompkins County & The Dorothy Cotton Institute
ITHACA — Join us on Saturday June 25th for the second event in the series “Sharing Our Stories of Action for Social Justice and Transformation.” This series, done in partnership and collaboration with the Dorothy Cotton Institute, will focus on sharing personal narratives and oral histories that highlight individual contributions towards social change across a broad range of issues and social movements. At this event, four panelists will share their work for change and address what they had to overcome and what sustained them. After the panel, all will be invited to meet in small groups to share their personal stories of work for social change. Panelists: Nancy Bereano, Martha Ferger, Gabe Shapiro and Nicole LaFave.
Let us know if you’re coming via the Facebook Event Page and be sure to share it with your friends!
About the Presenters….
Nancy Bereano has lived in Ithaca as a lesbian for 36 out of her 48 years here. She was the founding editor and publisher of Firebrand Books, a groundbreaking, award-winning, and nationally recognized lesbian and feminist press. Nancy has been an activist for most of her adult life, a troublemaker for all of it, and was instrumental in the passage of LGBT anti-discrimination legislation for the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County. She is a community representative on the City of Ithaca’s Workforce Diversity Committee, a member of ACTION (Activists Committed to Interrupting Oppression Now), and a participant and trained facilitator for Talking Circles on Race and Racism.
Martha Ferger moved to Dryden in 1955 at age 31 with her husband, Dr. John Ferger, and 3 young daughters. She has been active on a wide variety of public issues ever since, ranging from opposition to nuclear weapons testing in the early days to efforts to save Seneca Lake from gas storage more recently. You might have seen her picture (in a film by Earth Justice) being led away in handcuffs from a demonstration at Crestwood, or met her knocking on your door with the petition that helped persuade the Town Board make Dryden the first town in NY State to ban fracking. She has also been among the activists in Ithaca seeking to have cameras placed on all police in an effort to decrease and document abuse towards people of color and LGBTQI residents. Now, at age 92, she hopes to continue activities of this sort for a few more years. There are so many things in the world to worry about!
Gabe Shapiro is a rising third year at Hampshire College, studying energy, climate change and organizing. He works with groups across the Northeast fighting the build-out of fracking infrastructure.
Nicole LaFave is Program Coordinator, Community Service and Leadership Development at the Cornell Public Service Center. She was born and raised in Harlem, New York. At the Center for Culture, Race and Ethnicity at Ithaca College, Nicole found her passion for race relations in the US and began exploring strategies for denouncing oppressive systems. She decided to stay in Ithaca after graduating from IC because she believe this small city had the power and ambition to cultivate a space where true social change is more than possible but sustainable. She currently sits on the Ithaca City Community Police Review Board, is a co-founder and organizer of Black Lives Matter Ithaca, and is a newly elected member of the Ithaca City School District Board of Education. She holds a BA from Ithaca College in Sociology with a concentration in juvenile criminal studies, and race and ethnic relations. Her studies focused on equity issues, making the classroom and curriculum successful for children with complex needs through project-based learning.
Join us for the first event of a series presented by The History Center in Tompkins County and the Dorothy Cotton Institute titled “Sharing Our Stories of Action for Social Justice and Transformation.”
Series Kick-Off Event:
Sharing Our Work for Social Change: Taking Action
Saturday March 19th, 2:00 – 4:00 at The History Center in Tompkins County
(401 E. State St., Suite 100 — Gateway Plaza)
“Saturday will be the first of a series of community gatherings for sharing our personal narratives, and creating an archive of oral histories so that we can build the knowledge of how people achieve justice and effect change. No story is too short.” – Dorothy Cotton Institute
“Ithaca and Tompkins County have a long history of involvement in social movements and issues.” – The History Center
This series will encourage people in our communities to share their personal stories and oral histories that highlight individual contributions for working for social change across a broad range of issues and social movements. At this event, four panelists will share their work for change and address what they had to overcome and what sustained them. After the panel, everyone will be invited to meet in small groups to share their work for social change.
Carlos H. Gutierrez, Former Chilean Political Exile & Labor Community Organizer
Jhakeem Haltom, Dean of Student Life, New Roots School
Mary Milne, Fabric Artist & Local Ribbon Coordinator, 1982-85
Joyce Muchan, Former Chair of the Ithaca LGBT Task Force
There will be future events to help community members learn from one another and to highlight that we can all choose to take action. This project will include oral histories will be captured to archive the richness of action and involvement of Tompkins County residents in a variety of social movements.
The History Center in Tompkins County & The Dorothy Cotton Institute,
The John Henrik Clarke Africana Library & Cornell University Public Service Center
The Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County provided support for the series
The Dorothy Cotton Institute is partnering with the Office of Human Rights to co-sponsor the Human Rights Arts Competition, open to all K-12 students in Tompkins County, whether in public school, private school, charter school, Montessori, or home-schooled.
Teachers and students are encouraged to explore the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to submit students’ artwork (visual, poetry or short film) expressing their understanding of one or more of the 30 articles of the UDHR . Click the link to find out details. The Dorothy Cotton Award will be presented by Ms. Cotton to the winning poet.
Across the nation and here in Tompkins County, there is a Ban-the-Box movement to reduce barriers to employment for applicants who have a felony conviction on their record. Given the enormous number of people who have been convicted, the vast majority for non-violent crimes, employers play an important role in helping people find decent, stable employment. Other states such as Hawaii, Ohio, Oregon, Massachusetts, California and N.J., and municipalities such as Orlando, NYC, and the City of Rochester have passed Ban the Box Ordinances. In June of 2015, NYC went beyond banning the felony box on applications for jobs in city government, and now prohibits both public and private employers from asking questions about felony convictions during the initial employment application process.
As a business that has employed a lot of people over 42 years and values fairness in employment, this seemed like something important for us at Moosewood Restaurant. In our case, we were actually using the same old boiler-plate application for years; I looked at it and there was the question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony? If yes, please indicate which charges may be relevant to the position you are seeking.” All we needed was to agree that this was an unnecessary barrier, and we revised the application and deleted the question. Simple.
There are multiple steps in a hiring process, and employers may ask about prior convictions at later stages. In some cases employers must ask about felonies up front if it’s relevant to the position the candidate is seeking, for instance, as a police officer or as a childcare worker.
“Unless one of the limited exceptions applies, an employer cannot make any inquiry—either verbally or in writing, including in an employment application—about an applicant’s criminal record during the “initial employment application process” (IEAP). Once the IEAP is complete, an employer can make inquiries about an applicant’s criminal history”
Ban the Box laws and policies don’t require the employer to hire a particular applicant, but one of the goals is to reduce recidivism among qualified people who happen to have a record and to help people who could be fine employees make it through the application screening process. The Obama Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force gave the movement a boost when it endorsed hiring practices “which give applicants a fair chance and allow employers the opportunity to judge individual job candidates on their merits.”
We encourage other businesses and institutions in Tompkins County to adopt Ban the Box policies. Whether one is a small business owner, manager, department head or human resource director, employers understandably have important questions.
These links may be helpful:
On June 26th, 20 community participants attended the Dorothy Cotton Institute’s Human Rights Workshop to gain a common understanding of the international human rights framework and how it can be applied to local social justice issues efforts they care about.
Workshop participants are working on accessible, affordable and sustainable transportation, access to affordable healthcare, human rights education for parents and caregivers, advocacy for the rights of incarcerated people, diversity and inclusion on the college campuses, the rights of immigrants, the rights and voices veterans, the rights to healthy affordable food, fair housing, and the right to live free of drones.
Margo Hittleman and Kirby Edmonds led the half-day workshop, asking people to draw on their personal experiences of injustice and the challenges of speaking up or intervening on your own or others’ behalf.
At one point, participants lined up on a scale of 0-100 to illustrate and discuss how well they think the rights articulated in the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, (CERD). are being upheld and fully expressed in our community. Their assessment: sharing their perspectives and examples of discrimination and disparate impact based on race and ethnicity, it seems we have a long way to go toward compliance and protection of CERD. In some ways, our society has been moving backwards by allowing the erosion of protections against racial discrimination.
One important action to consider: examine what our local anti-discrimination ordinance actually covers, and what kind of discrimination is left out!
Another action to consider: get into the practice of re-framing the social issues we are working so hard to transform, by
- using the language and lens of our universal human rights, to recognize and describe social justice and ecological needs and standards,
- advocating to meet our national and local obligations to bring our laws and practices into compliance with human rights treaties, and by
- fulfilling our mutual responsibilities to respect and protect the dignity of all.
Welcome to the Human Rights Movement!
or follow Dorothy Cotton Institute on Facebook
DCI is a project of the Center for Transformative Action
The Dorothy Cotton Institute Gala and Celebration of International Human Rights Day–Dec. 10, 2013 was a huge success, with over 220 people attending.
All photos are by Kathy Morris http://kathymorris.net/
Thanks to all who joined us, and to the many people who sponsored a ticket for so that someone else could attend. It was a remarkable evening, featuring a keynote from former Mayor of Atlanta Ambassador Andrew Young, Fellowship of Reconciliation Presentation of the 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards to human rights leaders and educators Ms. Dorothy Cotton and Dr. Vincent Harding, and a performance of Spirituals and Freedom Songs by the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers.
Mimi Melegrito sang “Without a Song” in honor of Dorothy.
We closed out the evening dancing to DJ Apia Awa.
All photos are by Kathy Morris http://kathymorris.net/