Tompkins County Showing Up for Racial Justice
Katie Church, volunteer organizer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Redistributing White Wealth” Campaign Moves First $10,000 into Local Anti-Racist Organizing
Tompkins County Showing Up for Racial Justice Urges Community to Engage
Ithaca, NY. A campaign launched in May 2022 makes a bold and direct request of people with white privilege in Tompkins County: Redistribute some of your money to anti-racist organizing led by Black and Indigenous people in our region. As much as you can. Every month.
One of the campaign’s organizers, Adrian Sampson, Associate Professor at Cornell University, traces the campaign’s rationale to the racial wealth gap. “Here in Tompkins County, almost three-quarters of Black workers earn less than a living wage,” Sampson says, citing research from the Tompkins County Workers Center. “That’s compared to less than a third of white workers. And nationally, due to systemic racism, the typical white family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family. That reality is incredibly unjust on its face and limits the resources leaders of color have available to them in their work for justice. It also means there are a lot of white people in our community who can and should redistribute some of their money.”
Monthly contributions to the campaign's launch phase have reached over $2,500 from nearly 40 participants. This means the campaign can move about $500 per month to each of its first five Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-led partner organizations. In total, the campaign has moved over $10,000 so far to support BIPOC-led anti-racist organizing in Tompkins County. When the monthly contributions exceed $1000 for each organization, campaign organizers plan to add additional BIPOC-led anti-racist organizations as partners.
Sachem Sam George of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ (Cayuga) Nation offered context about how the campaign supports his community’s ongoing struggle against colonialism: “The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ people who returned to their homelands were trying to live like their ancestors, self sustainable. […] One of our own, who has learned the society that tried to destroy his ancestors’ ways, has hired mercenaries to destroy us, a peaceful people. The help this program provides gives us hope that we will rebuild and flourish.”
Chavon Bunch, Executive Director of Southside Community Center, said of the campaign, “The reparation program SURJ is currently piloting is an effort to take accountability for the systemic disparities our people of color face by giving back what was rightfully ours.”
Phoebe Brown, Ithaca Alderperson and Central New York Coordinator for Alliance of Families for Justice, said of the campaign at an online launch event on May 23rd, “It’s a start. I’m real excited about it. It’s something I’ve been talking about for many years, but my vision is much bigger.” Brown summarized the campaign to the white audience at the launch event: “It’s what you owe.”
Nicole LaFave, former school board member, Cornell DEI leader, and organizer with Black Lives Matter Ithaca (BLMI), leads BLMI’s Emergency Assistance Fund project, which uses a mutual aid framework to connect families of color with needed funds. Given the close-knit nature of Tompkin County’s BIPOC-led community organizations, LaFave advised campaign organizers, “Don’t get too bogged down by where [funds raised by the campaign are] going. We’re all supporting the same people.”
The partner organizations currently involved are:
Alliance of Families for Justice
Black Lives Matter Ithaca
Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ (Cayuga) Nation
Ithaca Multicultural Resource Center
Southside Community Center
Partner organizations have complete discretion over how to spend the funds. So far, the money has gone toward the maintenance of BIPOC community space, supported program costs and supplies, been distributed directly to BIPOC community members as mutual aid, and much more. Alderperson Brown said, “the funds have helped to keep up the Creative Hub, a space for MRC and AFJ to continue to work with the vulnerable community members.” “It is powerful to know that we are taking a step toward reparative action around the unequal access to wealth and resources that white people as a whole unfairly benefit from, and redirecting some of that money to where it rightfully belongs,” Ithaca social worker and fellow campaign organizer Kate Cardona reflects on the campaign’s work so far. “However, we know that we have a lot farther to go and that we are capable of deeper redistribution of wealth.”
Sampson and his wife, farmer and nonprofit worker Ariana Taylor-Stanley, who are both white, make a monthly household contribution of $500 to the campaign. “We’re contributing an amount that makes up a significant amount of our monthly spending,” Taylor-Stanley says. “We both work in disproportionately white professions that pay us more than we need for our basic expenses. That’s an unearned privilege, and it’s important to both of us to redistribute as much of our money as we can.” Sampson points out other forms of white privilege the couple holds: “We both hold graduate degrees without any student debt. We were able to become homeowners with the help of intergenerational wealth.” Taylor-Stanley adds, “By participating in this campaign, we’re able to do more than just acknowledge how unfair the privileges are that we as white people hold. It’s exciting to be part of something that I believe, with enough momentum, can make a material difference in the racial justice landscape in our community.”
Ciele Gladstein is an herbalist and small business owner in Ithaca. She is contributing $30 each month based on her current income. “I plan to make a larger contribution as my work becomes more stable,” Ciele says. “I want people to feel ok giving any amount they can. I think we have a responsibility as white people to participate in the movement towards economic justice. It is our duty to confront our white supremacist culture. People of color have been oppressed by the economic, social, and educational systems that benefit white society. Even if it’s hard to admit, we benefit from white privilege. However, we can be advocates for change. Being a part of this campaign has given me the opportunity to take action within my community. I’m grateful to be building relationships with these organizations and showing material support”.
Learn more about the Redistributing White Wealth Campaign and sign up to join at https://www.tcsurj.org/rww