Mary Kay HarrisPhoto: Robert MalinProvidence, R.I. — African-American activist Mary Kay Harris won the general election for City Council from Ward 11 on Nov. 4, defeating her Republican opponent by 1,669 to 258, or better than six to one. This is despite support for the Republican from the incumbent machine Democrat, whom Harris had defeated in the primary.Harris had won the primary race on a very small budget, with lots of door-to-door campaigning by volunteers. She continued that strategy during the general election. Campaign flyers described her record of support for tenants’ rights, affordable homeownership, better schools and safe streets.Rhode Island has an official poverty rate of more than 13 percent and the third-highest unemployment rate in the country, behind Georgia and Mississippi. With an overall population of just over a million, the state has a very large Latino/a immigrant population, in excess of 100,000, including Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Mexicans and other Central and South Americans. West Africans, mainly from Liberia and Nigeria, and Black Caribbean islanders together number at least another 50,000.Dissatisfaction with the current City Council leaders, reflecting anger over joblessness and poverty, enabled Harris’ People First/El Pueblo Primero campaign to win both elections.As a former organizer of Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), founded in the 1980s to fight for social and economic justice in communities of color, Harris learned the lessons of mass people’s power movements, such as that led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and 1960s. She says that one of her greatest inspirations comes from seeing Black, Latino/a, Asian, Native and white people unite around a common struggle for justice.Harris called for and chaired the Women of All Colors Assembly in Providence on International Women’s Day this year and has been an active participant in the Rhode Island Peoples Assembly since its founding 10 years ago.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York The case of a man who claimed Long Island Skydive fired him for being gay has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments Tuesday on the accusations. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan had overturned a lower court’s ruling against Donald Zarda, who sued the former owners of the Calverton-based skydiving company arguing that his firing violated discrimination laws. The company’s former owners, who counter that Zarda was fired for making a customer feel uncomfortable, appealed to the highest court in the land, which agreed to hear the case that is expected to result in a landmark ruling. “There’s a lot at stake,” David Kilmnick, president and CEO of the Long Island LGBT Network, told reporters during a news conference Tuesday at his Hauppauge office.The Zarda case is one of three LGBT discrimination cases that the Supreme Court heard Tuesday and its first on the issue since conservative-leaning Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced retired swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, bringing the court to the right. The ruling may decide federal anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity — protections that some argue should be passed by Congress instead of decided by the courts. New York State has laws barring such discrimination, but more than half the other states in the nation do not.The Supreme Court is also hearing the case of a transgender woman who claims that she was fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home after telling her boss that she was transitioning — a case that she won and a Cincinnati federal appeals court affirmed. The third case involves a Georgia man who argues that he was fired from his Clayton County job for being gay, although in his case, he lost his lawsuit and a federal appeals court in Atlanta also ruled against him. Zarda died in a skydiving accident five years ago, but his sister and former partner are continuing the case on behalf of his estate. Kilmnick was flanked by local lawmakers rallying in support of Zarda’s case. Among them was New York State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown).“This is an absolute travesty that such a case has to come before the Supreme Court,” Thomas said. “They’s not looking for any special rights. They’re looking for the same rights that everyone else has in this country.”Em Moratti, a Long Island woman who said she lost her first teaching internship after parents objected to LGBT-related internet posts of hers that they found, said the ruling in the three cases will affect the lives of those in the community.“Regardless of which direction, this will have an incredible impact on LGBT people,” she said.