Apr 30, 2013 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Central New York boasts a rich history of social activism, and the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS) keeps that tradition alive.
More than 300 ACTS members, honorees and supporters filled the ballroom at the Holiday Inn at Electronics Parkway on Thursday, April 25, at the group’s sixth annual spring banquet.
“This is an incredible sight,” exclaimed Mark Spadafore as he gazed out at the crowd from the podium. “There are people from different communities, people from different races and people from different faith traditions. Everyone coming together like this shows us that we have power, and power can change things.”
Spadafore, who lives in Liverpool, was there representing Service Employees International Union Local 1199 to present one of four Social Justice Leadership Awards to Helen Hudson, the founder of Syracuse’s Mothers Against Gun Violence. The other three 2013 honorees were Imam Khalil Abdulkhabir, the longtime chaplain at Auburn and Mid-State corrections facilities; Syracuse inner-city grocer Paul Nojaim; and Peggy Liuzzi, the executive director of Child Care Solutions.
ACTS is an inter-faith, urban-suburban coalition of more than 40 churches and activist organizations which join together to address social, economic, educational and political concerns. Formed in 2002, its mission statement cites three shared values: human worth, dignity and justice.
To accomplish its goals, ACTS has formed three task forces, one each to tackle issues regarding public education, criminal justice and food access.
While the majority of the groups which comprise ACTS are from the city of Syracuse, a few, such as Liverpool’s St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Church, are from the suburbs.
St. Joseph’s was well-represented at the April 25 banquet with parishioners such as Spadafore, Eileen Brody, Terry Cardinal, Mark Cass, Karen and Warren Machell, Pat and Tom Negus, Marty Ours, Dot Schuler, Joan Wilson and Jennifer Woodburn.
Local elected officials such as County Legislator Judy Tassone, Assemblyman Sam Roberts and Assemblyman Al Stirpe also attended.
Liverpool native Gregg Tripoli, now the executive director of the Onondaga Historical Association, delivered the keynote speech, a sweeping overview of Central New York’s activist legacy. Tripoli chronicled the anti-slavery movement, the battle for women’s suffrage and anti-war efforts here, but he also pointed to the establishment of orphanages and homes for the elderly as important social endeavors.
“Whenever groups of people were marginalized and under-represented,” he said, “activists responded to their needs.” Examples he cited included the Onondaga-Indian Welfare Society begun in 1911, the Rescue Mission established here in 1923 and InterFaith Works founded in 1976.
“InterFaith Works has settled more than 10,000 refugees in the Syracuse area,” Tripoli said. “By so doing they’re building unity and affirming dignity for future generations.”
In the 21st century, local institutions such as the Dunbar Center and the Syracuse Peace Council and Syracuse Cultural Workers continue to battle racism and militarism, he said, while newer groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Syracuse have formed to represent an emerging constituency.
“Through it all one thing is certain,” Tripoli said. “The fight for social justice continues. It takes a community to life a community, to make the world a better place for everybody.”