ACE Blog

Youth Pass sit-in participants arrested, MassDOT blocks youth from public meeting

July 7, 2014

Sitting in the hallway outside Davey's office

On June 9, 21 youth and supporters were arrested at the office of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey after holding a sit-in for an MBTA Youth Pass. After repeated delay tactics from MassDOT and MBTA officials, and receiving no response a full month after delivering our Open Letter [pdf], nearly 40 youth and supporters from our Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC) gathered in Secretary Davey’s office, asking him to fulfill his promise to implement a pilot program for the pass.

When he refused to speak with us, we sat down and announced that we would wait for his response. MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott visited to speak with us, but media were not allowed to enter the Transportation Building due to “capacity issues.” Outside, supporters rallied throughout the day and well into the evening, when the 21 people in our group who stayed were arrested.

Riders need early morning service and low-income fares

July 7, 2014

TRU surveying in Dudley Square

Over the past six weeks, our T Riders Union (TRU) has surveyed MBTA riders on transit issues and found that an overwhelming majority support increased early morning service and an income-based fare. Both initiatives would benefit low-income workers who hold night or early-morning shifts and rely on public transportation. Hundreds of responses have been collected from Dudley, Ashmont and Mattapan Stations and through our partners at SEIU 615.

Early morning service includes any bus or train trips that start before 6:00 a.m. Currently, there are a small number of buses that run early morning trips, but not nearly enough to get all transit-dependent workers to and from jobs. Over 86 percent of riders surveyed supported early morning service as an affordable way to get to work and back safely.

Connecting for Climate Justice

July 7, 2014

Small-group discussions at our final workshop

This June, ACE hosted three workshops on climate justice for members to discuss what climate change looks like in our lives and how it connects with our work for environmental justice.

During the first workshop, members identified climate change impacts in our communities like extreme fluctuations in temperature and food shortages that raise the cost of groceries. We explored the root causes of this crisis and its connection to environmental injustice, like how people of color and folks with low-incomes are the first to experience the negative effects of climate change. Drawing on connections between climate and environmental justice, we collectively came up with a working definition of climate justice.

The second workshop focused on local and global climate justice movements, with guest speakers sharing what climate justice organizing looks like in their communities. Joaquin Brito and Brian Gonzalez from UPROSE in Brooklyn, NY, video conferenced with us, and Ninya Loeppky from Boston Climate Action Network, joined us in person. Together, members discussed how we can work for climate justice at home by building up our own networks and local food sources to develop alternative and sustainable economies.

Hakim Sutherland: YAC Sit-in, T Riders Union Intern

July 7, 2014

Hakim at the Sit-in for Opportuni(T)

I’m from Boston. I like to make music, I like to draw, I like bike riding and enjoying the city. I got involved with ACE when REEP Director Dave Jenkins was teaching a history class at my high school when I was a freshman. I asked my teacher about a picture on the wall of teens rallying – there were three REEPers, one holding a bullhorn, and I was like, what is that? She said Dave was there at the rally and introduced me and I became a youth organizer.

I’ve been working on the Youth Pass ever since I was involved with REEP. I worked on the Youth Way campaign for one year before I co-founded Grow or Die, and now I’m adult support and alumni with the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC). I’ve been heavily involved in the past year and my favorite part is the creativity behind the campaign. It’s so open that it allows youth to express themselves the way that they want to.

The major thing I felt during the sit-in was frustration, particularly with Richard Davey and MassDOT as a whole and how they fail to address the problem, the youth rider crisis. There’s a lot of youth out there that, number one, don’t have access to the BPS student pass. And number two, they don’t have the opportunity to get a monthly or a weekly pass, so a lot of youth are still pushed out. Especially the youth who graduate high school but don’t go to college – those three years before you turn 21 you have to pay $70 a month. And you can only get so much with a high school education, so you don’t make the money to get the pass.

Trae Weekes: REEP Youth Organizer

July 7, 2014

Trae at the Youth Pass March as a superhero

I’m from Dorchester, I’m 16 and I’m a youth organizer and also a writer. I got involved with ACE when I met [ACE staff] David Noiles at the Summer Leadership Program (SLP), and he got me into REEP. I work on all three REEP campaigns.

My favorite part of the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition’s (YAC) work is the actions. It’s exciting when action day actually comes. Sometimes I’m on the bullhorn, sometimes I’m on press, sometimes I’m a superhero. I’ve been a superhero for the last two marches. During the action, I was on press and was interviewed by a reporter from NECN.

At the rally, there was excitement, hope. We had to keep walking or else we could get arrested, so we kept marching in circles and almost everyone had a sign. The people ranged in age. My godson was out there and he’s only one. One of the police officers even started saying our chants. It was the people – our rowdiness and yelling. There were allies, people from YAC, people I’d never seen – there was a lot of support.

Celebrating for Jammin' for Justice 2014

July 7, 2014

Celebrating at Jammin' for Justice 2014

Thank you to everyone who donated and came out to Jammin’ for Justice in May! We loved celebrating the work we accomplished together with so many of our members and partners. Your support means that this year, we can keep building gardens, fighting for accessible public transportation, providing legal support to community groups and much more.

Congratulations to our 2014 EJ Awardees: the Summer Leadership Program at The City School, the Public Transit Public Good campaign, and Citizens for a Better Brockton, Stop the Power and Lisa Goodheart, Esq. and Phelps Turner, Esq. of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C. We were honored to be able to recognize your impressive work for youth, accessible public transit and environmental justice.

A special thanks to our dedicated Jammin’ hosts, who helped us raise funds and bring folks to the event: Mary Ann Babinski, Kalila Barnett, Heather Catherwood, Cindy Chen, Veronica Eady, Neenah Estrella-Luna and Marcos Luna, Julia Finkelstein, David Jenkins, Lisette Le, Penn Loh and Jackie Cefola, Mina Makarious, Sara Mersha, Lauren Richter, Jenny Rushlow, Khalida Smalls, Aaron Tanaka, UACT students, and John Walkey. We couldn’t have done this without you!

Climate justice workshops in June!

May 27, 2014

Discussing climate justice at last year's EJ Agenda Retreat

Remember Hurricane Sandy? Climate change causes the weather to become less predictable, leading to more extreme storms in the northeast, while worsening droughts elsewhere. In addition to the weather, it affects everything from health to food, which tend to hit communities of color and low-income communities the hardest.

This June is Climate Justice Month at ACE. People are rising up and fighting this threat globally. Locally, what can we do together and how can we ensure that actions taken by the city and state are just and improve people's lives?

Join us for a series of workshops and conversations about climate change, how it affects environmental justice communities and how you can become involved in efforts to protect our neighborhoods.

June 11: Connecting our work to climate justice
June 18: The climate justice movement
June 25: Our role in the climate justice movement
5:30 p.m. Dinner
6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Workshop

Waste ban victory shows results!

May 27, 2014

Click to see image larger

This spring, we’re pleased to report an improvement in state waste management, following last year’s victory when our work with Clean Water Action and Massachusetts residents pushed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to step up enforcement of waste bans. These laws are designed to reduce our waste stream by preventing recyclable materials from being buried in landfills or burned in incinerators.

In October 2013, the DEP hired three waste ban inspectors to strengthen compliance guidelines at trash transfer stations. Over the past year, there have been five times as many inspections, leading the DEP to issue 101 enforcement actions: 98 noncompliance notices and three penalties. The majority of violations—83 in total—were identified after the new inspectors were hired. This increase in enforcement means that more materials will be recycled, leading to a reduced waste stream, cleaner air in our communities—especially for residents living close to incinerators and landfills—and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Residents win faster cleanup of toxic waste site

May 27, 2014

Map of the Parker Street Waste Site

In February, New Bedford residents battling a hazardous dump site won a big victory when the city withdrew its application to delay a cleanup by two years. The city agreed to speed up the process due to the work of Citizens Leading Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), with support from our Environmental Justice Legal Services program (EJLS) and Licensed Site Professional Ian Phillips of Haley & Aldrich, a volunteer with our Massachusetts Environmental Justice Assistance Network (MEJAN).

Before the withdrawal, we asked the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reject the application, hold a community meeting on the proposal, and require the city to produce specific and timely plans to clean the site after 12 years of delays. CLEAN members presented evidence that dioxin concentration in the ground exceeds federal safety limits, endangering the health and safety of the people who live, work and study there. However, the city’s application did not mention the presence of dioxin.

Homes, middle and high schools, businesses and churches have been built on the Parker Street Waste Site, which spans more than 140 acres. The exact boundaries of the property and extent of PCB and dioxin contamination has yet to be defined by the City of New Bedford. Some homes have been condemned due to soil contamination and some residents have developed serious illnesses.