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PEF Black Caucus Upstate Chapter Council energized with new leadership

CONGRATULATIONS – PEF President Wayne Spence welcomes Sharon DeSilva as the new chair of the PEF Black Caucus Upstate Chapter Council. They are flanked by Rebecca Wilburn, Region 9 Coordinator Vivian Street, Tania Tinley, PEF Trustee Maddie Shannon-Roberts, Deborah Walton and John Neal.

Story and photo  by DEBORAH A. MILES 

Empowering PEF members on all levels has been a goal of PEF President Wayne Spence. On April 24, he officially turned the helm of the Upstate Chapter Council of the PEF Black Caucus to Sharon V. DeSilva.

DeSilva has many roles within PEF, from being an Executive Board member to chairing the state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA) labor-management committee, the PEF Ethics Committee and others. She also is a leader and activist who fought to have her title at OTDA changed.

“The agency had never hired a black senior attorney to work in the counsel’s office before me,” she said.

Spence said DeSilva’s passion for fairness and activism within PEF and her community makes her a leader who will invigorate the Black Caucus Upstate Council and focus on salient issues and continued member engagement.

“There is a proliferation of discriminatory issues facing people of color in society,” DeSilva said. “That is why this council was formed and why it needs to be active. We must have a voice for our concerns, and not just through speaking. We need to focus and plan to increase diversity in the workplace and in our communities. We need to connect with other organizations that deal with the same inequalities that we face, and unite to create effective changes. We must march at rallies, write letters to legislators, editorials for newspapers and participate in PEF’s Go Public campaign.”

DeSilva said the council is devoted to helping those who face issues such as failure to hire, promote or retain. She applauded the efforts of the past caucus leaders and said they saw a need to fight for more ethnic diversity in the workplace.

The Upstate Chapter Council of the PEF Black Caucus is open to everyone, not only PEF members. The other appointed members include co-chair Debi Chowdhury, recording secretary Michelle Santos, membership secretary Tania Tinley, treasurer Johnny Neal and executive vice president Beverly Jones -Yahia. The statewide president is Elizabeth Cheese.

“We are here to work as a strong and effective team. There is no “I” in team,” DeSilva said. “We are all eager professionals who are determined to work together to get our voices heard.”

To remind them the Black Caucus is a continuous effort that takes time and energy, DeSilva gave each member and guest who attended the ceremony a packet of perennial seeds.

“If you do a good job planting and nurturing the seeds, the flowers will return every year, and they will be a reminder that they came from the PEF Black Caucus,” DeSIlva said. “And every year, we want our members to return and to continue to invest their time and energy to our issues. Our goal is to shape our union, community and state into a better place for generations to come.”

If you would like to join the upstate chapter, send an email to moc.o1496037274ohay@1496037274tspsu1496037274cuack1496037274calb1496037274 or moc.l1496037274iamg@1496037274sucua1496037274ckcal1496037274bfepe1496037274tatsp1496037274u1496037274.

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