Member Highlight: Jessie Cruz

[español abajo]

“We are in a crisis. Not just here in Holyoke, but a global crisis. And I know we have the power to make this place better, starting right here.”

– Jessie Cruz, N2N Member

Jessie was in her 20’s when she received the call to serve her community. A near-death experience made clear for her that she had a special calling to be a pastor by vocation.

When her friend and N2N organizer Enid Ramos asked her to become a member, she said yes right away. As she puts it, any organization that is going to make the community better is one she’s going to join.

Jessie isn’t new to bringing people together and inspiring them to take action – that’s what her ministry is all about. With N2N, she’s been connecting with people who are impacted by the housing crisis and motivating them to build power together. The way she sees it, it’s about the whole community. What makes one person’s life better makes all our lives better.

“I don’t limit myself to thinking about my own home, my own grandkids, my own church,” said Jessie. “The whole city, the whole state, the whole U.S., the whole planet is my home.”

You’re supporting members like Jessie in doing this work on the ground – thank you!

Miembro destacado: Jessie Cruz

“Estamos en una crisis. No solo aquí en Holyoke, sino una crisis global. Y sé que tenemos el poder de mejorar este lugar, comenzando aquí mismo.”

Jessie tenía más de 20 años cuando recibió la llamada para servir a su comunidad. Con una experiencia personal que casi le quita la vida, esto le dejó claro que tenía un llamado especial para ser pastora por vocación.

Cuando su amiga y organizadora de N2N, Enid Ramos, le pidió que se convirtiera en miembro, ella dijo que sí de inmediato. Como ella dice, se unirá a cualquier organización que vaya a servir a la comunidad.

Jessie no es nueva en unir a las personas e inspirarlas a tomar medidas, de eso se trata su ministerio. Con N2N, se ha estado conectando con personas que se ven afectadas por la crisis de la vivienda y motivándolas a construir poder juntos. La forma en que ella lo ve, este proceso se trata de toda la comunidad. Lo que hace que la vida de una persona sea mejor hace que todas nuestras vidas sean mejores.

“No me limito a pensar en mi propia casa, mis propios nietos, mi propia iglesia”, dijo Jessie. “Toda la ciudad, todo el estado, todo Estados Unidos, todo el planeta es mi hogar”.

Estás apoyando a miembros como Jessie en hacer este trabajo en el terreno, ¡gracias!

What it means to grow resiliency

[español abajo]

Members at a tenants’ union meeting hosted at the Dwight Street Garden. 

Growing season is coming to a close at our Dwight Street Garden in Holyoke. But in some ways, you have just planted the seeds.

Resiliency, to us, means three things. First, it means being able to grow our own food if and when we need it – whether fresh vegetables are hard to come by because money is tight or because the climate crisis disrupts our food supply.

Second, it means being connected to our neighbors so we can turn to each other when we need support. Third, resilience means our people are ready to govern ourselves in a way that puts people over profit.

Thank you for joining us in planting the seeds of resiliency in all its meanings. We grew hundreds of pounds of fresh food and gave it to our neighbors. We built connections with new people and partners – from engineering teams to garden experts to the new person on the block.

And, maybe most importantly, we held countless meetings in our own community space to build up a tenants’ union and find new ways to shift power back to the people.

Join us in making possible next season: completing our solar fridge project, making more of our garden beds accessible for people who use wheelchairs, and designing irrigation systems to keep our plants growing happily even in dry weather.

Thank you for making it possible.

El significado de aumentar la resiliencia

La temporada de crecimiento está llegando a su fin en nuestro Dwight Street Garden en Holyoke. Sin embargo, de alguna manera, acabas de plantar las semillas.

Para nosotros, la resiliencia significa tres cosas. Primero, significa poder cultivar nuestros propios alimentos si los necesitamos y cuando los necesitamos, ya sea porque las verduras frescas sean difíciles de conseguir porque el dinero es escaso o porque la crisis climática interrumpe nuestro suministro de alimentos.

En segundo lugar, la resiliencia significa estar conectados con nuestros vecinos para que podamos recurrir unos a otros cuando necesitemos apoyo. En tercer lugar, la resiliencia significa que nuestra gente está lista para gobernarnos a nosotros mismos de una manera que ponga a las personas por encima de las ganancias.

Gracias por acompañarnos en plantar las semillas de la resiliencia en todos sus significados. Cultivamos cientos de libras de alimentos frescos y se los dimos a nuestros vecinos. Construimos conexiones con nuevas personas y socios, desde equipos de ingeniería hasta expertos en jardinería y la nueva persona en el bloque.

Y, quizás lo más importante, celebramos innumerables reuniones en nuestro propio espacio comunitario para construir un sindicato de inquilinos y encontrar nuevas formas de devolver el poder a la gente.

Únete a nosotros para hacer posible la próxima temporada en la que tendremos que: completar nuestro proyecto de refrigerador solar, hacer que más de nuestros jardines elevados sean accesibles para las personas que usan sillas de ruedas y finalmente tendremos que diseñar sistemas de riego para mantener nuestras plantas creciendo felizmente incluso en clima seco.

Gracias por hacerlo posible.

When you have a housing crisis, build tenant power

[español abajo]

Renters at Springfield Gardens Apartment held their first press conference to bring attention to needed repairs. 

As I’m sure you saw, this summer, the median price for a single-family home in Massachusetts hit an all-time high. In response, Neighbor to Neighbor led a campaign for homes we all can afford – because housing is meant to be for the good of all, not the profits of a few.

In Springfield, tenants at the Springfield Gardens Apartments, who have been fighting for months for repairs, won media attention this month with their first press conference. Residents spoke about the terrible conditions: broken doors, moldy ceilings, and more, all from years of landlords’ neglect.

With your support, in Lynn, members brought the community housing plan we drafted together with partners to the mayor. The plan brings our bold vision to the city – paving the way for opportunities like cooperative housing, while also offering incentives to small landlords to make critical repairs. Members are outraged that the mayor, whose platform in the 2021 elections included a commitment to housing, isn’t backing the plan… yet. Join us as we bring more people power to hold the city accountable.

Cuando tenga una crisis de vivienda, construya el poder del inquilino

Como estoy seguro de que viste, este verano, que el precio medio de una casa unifamiliar en Massachusetts alcanzó un máximo histórico. En respuesta, Neighbor to Neighbor dirigió una campaña a favor de que tengamos hogares que todos podamos pagar, porque la vivienda está destinada a ser para el bien de todos, no para las ganancias de unos pocos.

En Springfield, los inquilinos de Springfield Gardens Apartments, que han estado luchando durante meses por las reparaciones, ganaron la atención de los medios este mes con su primera conferencia de prensa. Los residentes hablaron sobre las terribles condiciones: puertas rotas, techos mohosos y más, todo porque durante años han sufrido la negligencia de los propietarios.

Con tu apoyo, en Lynn, los miembros le presentaron al alcalde el plan de vivienda comunitaria que redactamos con nuestros socios. El plan tiene nuestra visión audaz para la ciudad, facilitando el camino para oportunidades como la vivienda cooperativa. De igual modo, nuestro plan ofrece incentivos a los pequeños propietarios para que realicen reparaciones críticas en sus hogares. Los miembros están indignados de que el alcalde, cuya plataforma en las elecciones de 2021 incluyó un compromiso con la vivienda, no esté respaldando el plan… todavía. Únase a nosotros a medida que empoderamos a la gente para responsabilizar a la ciudad por nuestras demandas.

Jeannette Rivera receives first-ever award commemorating Jafet Robles

The award recognizes activists who follow in the footsteps of beloved organizer, murdered five years ago this month

Jeannette Rivera received the first-ever Jafet Robles Advocacy Award at the 5th annual raising of the Puerto Rican flag at Linda Park located in Springfield’s Northend.

The award was presented to her by Noemi Arguinzoni-Jimenez, the mother of the activist for whom the award is named. 

Rivera received the award for her dedicated work for a better Western Massachusetts for all, and for the Puerto Rican community in particular. Rivera is a Board Member of Neighbor to Neighbor and active in her community in all areas of her life, influential in efforts both local and statewide. 

The Jafet Robles Advocacy Award commemorates Jafet Robles, a deeply dedicated organizer with Neighbor to Neighbor and beloved friend, coach, son, and father. Awardees will be chosen each year by Robles’s mother, Noemi Arguinzoni-Jimenez.

“It’s an honor to play a role in growing the relational power-building Jafet began in Western Mass, particularly in Springfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke,” said Rivera on receiving the award. “I often think about the powerful question Jafet would ask others, ‘What do you want to be remembered for?’ when I do what I do. I want to be remembered for the peace I’ve brought into people’s hearts and homes, and for playing a small part in building a more just and equitable world to live in.”

“Jeannette is always thinking about ways to uplift the voices of those around her,” said Elvis Méndez, Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor. “She has a big heart and a great sense of community. She is a wonderful recipient of this inaugural award.”

Robles was murdered five years ago on September 11, 2017 in Szot Park in Chicopee. He was 33 years old. His murder remains unsolved. 

The flag raising is a fitting time to remember Robles, who had a deep love for Puerto Rico. He was born in Puerto Rico and his family moved to Springfield when he was 8 months old. 

He grew up in the North End, the community that he fought for every day up until the day he was killed. 

This past Sunday, on the anniversary of his death, he was remembered at the Gerena School’s annual backpack drive by his close friend and fellow Neighbor to Neighbor organizer Zulmalee Rivera and his mother, who honored his legacy by registering attendees to vote. 

Among Robles’s organizing accomplishments are leading Neighbor to Neighbor’s “Jobs Not Jails” campaign to end mass incarceration, leading the fight against the school to prison pipeline, organizing to fix the Gerena School tunnels, and playing a key role in electing then-City Councilor Adam Gomez, who is now a state senator. 

But people who knew Jafet say his impact goes far beyond that. 

“Jafet saw a power in people that they did not see in themselves,” said Elvis Méndez, Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor. “He was completely authentic, not an ounce of pretension. That realness allowed him to use his own adversity as a bridge to connect with people’s darkest fears and inspire them to be their best selves. He was 1 of 1, the beating heart of a community, and his loss is incalculable.”

If you have any information that can help investigators solve the murder of Jafet Robles, you are urged to call the Chicopee Police Department at (413) 594-1700 or the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit at (413) 505-5993. You can also anonymously text a tip by texting the word “SOLVE” and your message to CRIMES (274637). 

Member Highlight: Nancy Lopez

Meet Nancy Lopez, a N2N member who spent hours and hours knocking on doors and talking to neighbors in Springfield last fall.

Nancy first got involved with N2N seven years ago – she remembers coming to our office in downtown Springfield, on the second floor above a restaurant. The first campaign she worked on was with the N2N Action Fund to elect a progressive ally to Springfield City Council.

“I like to help the community. I never miss a meeting.”
– Nancy Lopez, N2N Member

This year, she reconnected with Enid, our Springfield Organizer, on Facebook and hit the streets with our team to bring neighbors out to vote. Even after long days of knocking doors, N2N members would cheer when they passed each other in the streets to keep the excitement going.

Nancy stays involved because she likes bringing people together, going in groups to elected officials’ offices to fight for what we believe in, and getting her community out to vote.

You’re supporting members like Nancy in doing this work on the ground – thank you!

Celebrating 25 years of Neighbor to Neighbor

With you by our side, Neighbor to Neighbor has won countless victories over the last 25 years.

You’ve helped us back the leadership of N2N members, who align with our values, to step up to run for office. You’ve helped us champion policies to raise the minimum wage and win paid medical leave. You’ve helped us stop polluters like the Mt. Tom coal plant from putting their own profits before the health of our people and planet.

Thanks to you, we have a lot to celebrate as our organization turns 25. And your support means we’re gearing up for an even more powerful future.

Our team is stronger than ever, and we’re growing. We’re excited to welcome Terry Gibson, Cultural & Field Organizer, Enid Ramos-Ginés, Springfield Organizer, and Ruthy Rickenbacker, Communications & Digital Coordinator, to the team!

Going forward, N2N will lead the way on campaigns for community control and community ownership.

We’re fighting to make housing a social good, bring democracy to the workplace, and ensure that our people live in safe, healthy communities and are at the leading edge of the clean energy economy.

Thanks to you, N2N will continue to be a place, a true political home, that pushes the boundaries of what is possible – for 25 more amazing years to come.

Take action for housing justice statewide

Get ready to take action: N2N is launching a campaign to fight for housing justice statewide!

We know our people are facing a housing crisis, made worse by racism, COVID-19, and the climate crisis. The rent is too high, and our communities are being displaced from the cities we call home.

Last fall, you supported us in bringing together neighbors in Springfield, Holyoke, Worcester and Lynn to have real conversations about our struggles with housing. Together, we also imagined solutions. We envisioned a future where renters are protected, housing is affordable, and our people can afford to stay in their homes.

Now, we’re gearing up to fight for that future.

Are you ready to fight for housing justice? Make sure you stay in the know by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Gerena

The German Gerena School opened in 1975 to serve the growing North End population and to unite the North End through its system of tunnels. The tunnels now suffer from persistent water and mold due to aging and broken waterproof lining and poor ventilation. The water and mold exacerbate health concerns such as asthma, which affects Springfield residents at a rate twice that of the state average.

These issues have prompted community action. Organizations such as Neighbor 2 Neighbor have called on the city and state to make Gerena safe for the school children and community members who rely on the tunnels. Driven by a sense of  mutual aid, organizers draw attention to the connections between income inequality, environmental injustice, and racism. Gerena is one site that demonstrates these injustices in the North End community. As such, activists have been persistent and resilient in the fight to make Gerena a safe and vibrant space for the North End once again. Through organization and grassroots activism, local groups empower those who are directly affected by injustice to take control of decisions that impact their communities. 

In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Mass DOT), which is responsible for the upkeep of the Gerena tunnels, approved funding for waterproofing the Gerena tunnels. These tunnel repairs were estimated to cost up to $3 million. In October of 2020, the city of Springfield completed a repair plan for the tunnel system’s water leaks. In April 2021, Mass DOT approved the plan and agreed to fund $1.2 million of the estimated $2.18 million project. 

For more information on the history and issues surrounding Gerena, view these segments presented by New England Public Media’s Connecting Point.

Lower Valley Mutual Aid Press Release

Contact:

Katie Talbot, Organizer, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, (413) 270-4694, Katie@n2nma.org 

Zulma Rivera, Organizer, Neighbor to Neighbor, Massachusetts, (413)364-4247

Zulma@n2nma.org 

[FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ]

Lower Valley Mutual Aid

LOWER VALLEY- Eleven months into a global pandemic, and our communities throughout the lower valley continue to struggle to make ends meet. During the early months of the pandemic Neighbor to Neighbor was introduced to the mutual aid network from a few of its members who saw first hand how many people were struggling to obtain basic necessities, paying bills, and providing food. In the attempt to assist with community needs, N2N connected with various mutual aid groups in search for the best practices to connect with the community. 

The Lower Valley Mutual Aid formed in the Holyoke/Springfield/Chicopee area to strengthen connections among neighbors and share talents and resources. Katie Talbot and Zulmalee Rivera, from Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) have worked to support Neighborhood Point People who agree to be neighborhood leaders; to be the eyes and ears on the ground and to help the effort connect with as many people as possible. They have launched the Appleseed Time Project, where participants can offer their skills through time exchange. 

Every second and fourth Wednesday of the month a food distribution drive is hosted at 413 Main Street in Holyoke. Additionally, the partnership with the COVID-19 Massachusetts Tracing Collaborative, food can be delivered to folks who are quarantining after testing positive. The collaborative community effort has already assisted over 180 community members. In the midst of the pandemic the group continues to thrive – building strong neighborhood ties in Chicopee, Holyoke, and Springfield. 

Instructions to make donations via Indian Orchard Community Council (IOCC), the non-profit fiscal sponsor for the local N2N are below:

To donate on-line use this link. It brings you to the Indian Orchard donation page. Be sure to click on the options box and choose Lower Valley Mutual Aid. Or you can write a check to IOCC (Indian Orchard Community Council).  The Memo line should say Lower Valley Mutual Aid. Mail checks to Indian Orchard Community Council, PO Box 51593,  Indian Orchard, MA. 01151

Every donation small and large is welcome.  Thank you for your generosity to our neighbors! 

Lower Valley Mutual Aid formed in the Holyoke/ Springfield area with the support of Neighbor to Neighbor to strengthen connections among neighbors & share talents & resources. In addition, they established the Lower Valley Mutual Aid Fund. Read more & find out how you can contribute here.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Environmental Justice Press Contacts

María Belén Power, Associate Executive Director, GreenRoots, Inc., (617) 466-3076 mariabelenp@greenrootschelsea.org

Andrea Nyamekye, Co-Executive Director, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, (508) 505-6748 andrea@n2nma.org

Environmental Justice Organizations, Grassroots Groups, and Allies Angered by Squandered Opportunity.

Boston – Environmental justice was dealt a devastating blow today by Governor Baker’s veto of the much-anticipated Next Generation Roadmap Bill. Enactment of S.2995 would have created long overdue protections for the Black, Brown, Indigenous, Immigrant and low income communities who experience disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change and are often excluded from adequate participation in environmental decision-making.

Members of the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Table, a broad based coalition of environmental justice organizations, grassroots groups, and allies, led by GreenRoots, Inc. and Neighbor to Neighbor MA, are shocked and disappointed to see this opportunity squandered. Not only would the bill have helped to reassert Massachusetts’ leadership on climate change, it would have anchored state decarbonization efforts in racial and economic justice, in the wake of the nation’s racial reckoning and in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the imperative to do so is no longer in question.

We thank our legislative sponsors, who have been leaders in bringing the issue of environmental justice to the forefront, and for their hard work over the past two years and more. We also thank the Senate President and Speaker of the House, who have come out publicly and committed to refiling the Next Generation Roadmap Bill as soon as possible.

Maria Belén Power, Associate Executive Director, GreenRoots Inc, said, “Once again, so-called “progressive” Massachusetts has shown it’s true colors. We are led by a Republican Governor who is not interested in defending and protecting the most vulnerable residents of our Commonwealth, in particular immigrants, people of color and low income residents. Governor Baker has sent a clear message for 2021, he has zero interest in advancing equity and providing much-needed protections for environmental justice communities. It is shameful that after everything our country and our Commonwealth has been through this past year; after so many public health inequities being uncovered and exposed; and after the racial uprisings of this past summer, Governor Baker refuses to grant justice to the most vulnerable communities of our Commonwealth. ”

Andrea Nyamekye, Co-Executive Director, Neighbor to Neighbor MA, said, “After 20 long years, we still do not have true environmental justice protections for our most vulnerable communities in the Commonwealth. This bill could have been the first step in ameliorating public health and environmental harms that have plagued Massachusetts communities, and disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, Immigrant, and low income communities, for far too long. Governor Baker had a chance to put environmental justice into state statute for the first time, but he decided to allow environmental racism to persist in Massachusetts despite the overwhelming statewide support for these protections. We are thankful to our coalition partners for the work that was poured into getting environmental justice legislation this far, and to our five legislative sponsors who pushed their legislative colleagues to act on justice. The Governor may think he has silenced us and our fight for justice, but we will be back because our communities can no longer wait.”

Sofia Owen, Staff Attorney, ACE (Alternatives for Community & Environment): “We are deeply disappointed that the Governor did not sign the Roadmap Bill. The environmental justice provisions would provide Black, Brown, Indigenous, Immigrant, and low-income communities in Massachusetts with baseline protections that are long overdue. Our communities are the most polluted in the state, and by not signing this bill, Governor Baker is failing to protect the health of the communities who need it most – even in the midst of a global pandemic. This is unacceptable. Today’s veto ensures that environmental racism will continue to thrive in policymaking in Massachusetts.”

Jean-Luc Pierite, President Board of Directors, North American Indian Center of Boston: “There is no environmental justice without first considering the Indigenous peoples of Massachusetts. The Next Generation Roadmap Bill includes critical measures for equity for our communities on the front line of climate change. It ensures that Indigenous peoples are not excluded from decision making processes because of race or language barriers. It also ensures further investment in businesses rooted in our communities. This means the most impacted are those who can foster solutions for a sustainable future. Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto stands against a loud outcry for equity from environmental justice communities.”

Heather McMann, Executive Director, Groundwork Lawrence: ““I am very disappointed that Governor Baker did not sign the Next Generation Roadmap Bill,” said Heather McMann, executive director of Groundwork Lawrence. “I know that Groundwork Lawrence and the rest of the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Table will continue to work together and step up our efforts to make our voice heard and advocate for climate policy that directly addresses both the causes of climate warming and actively develops process to address the pervasive social inequity that has our environmental justice population bear the brunt of the burden of climate change. It is critical, to protect our planet and to protect its people, that aggressive measures such as the ones included in this Bill, become law of the Commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts Environmental Justice Table is led by GreenRoots, Inc. and Neighbor to Neighbor MA and includes Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), A Better Future Project, Coalition for Social Justice, Clean Water Action, Community Action Works, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, Groundwork Lawrence, Health Care Without Harm, Lawyers for Civil Rights, Massachusetts Climate Action Network, the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), and Unitarian Universalist Mass Action.

# # #