New PEF Black Caucus chapter taking root in central and western New York
By SHERRY HALBROOK
While the downstate- and Albany-based chapters of the Black Caucus of PEF are well established and familiar to PEF members in the eastern part of the state, many members in western and central New York have been unaware of this organization or have felt left out of its activities and efforts.
That is starting to change. A group of caring and dedicated members in PEF Regions 1 (Buffalo), 3 (Rochester) and 4 (Syracuse) organized and held an inaugural meeting of a new western chapter April 6, in Lackawanna.
State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes was guest speaker. She represents AD 141 in Buffalo.
The group also had the support of PEF leadership with Vice Presidents Adreina Adams and Randi DiAntonio attending, as well as PEF Trustee Jeanette Santos.
PEF Region 1 member Stephanie McLean-Beathley, who is a member of the group’s steering committee along with Region 3 members Gwen Clifton, Gloria Thomas and Angel Williams-Cave, said they felt it was important to recognize and address the needs of members in these areas.
“Many members here did not know about the Black Caucus and that it was formed early in the history of PEF to fight against discrimination and for fairness in the civil service system,” McLean-Beathley said.
“I truly believe the upstate area needs representation in the PEF Black Caucus,” Clifton said. “The culture is different upstate than downstate. More minorities have higher-level positions downstate and there is more ethnic diversity downstate. We definitely need to address our issues here.”
At the April meeting, attendees agreed to begin focusing on those issues, which remain important today. The group is working with PEF to support workshops on discrimination that will be held May 5 in Rochester, May 6 in Syracuse, May 7 in Buffalo and May 8 in Albany.
The Upstate PEF Black Caucus also hopes to offer a workshop on domestic violence in September and another general membership meeting in the fall.
“We also agreed that it’s important to use our resources wisely to address needs in our communities. We hope to work with legislators and other political leaders friendly to PEF on issues of common concern,” McLean-Beathley said.
Clifton said she hopes to hold another Black Caucus organizing meeting for the Rochester area in June.
“And I’m hoping someone will take the lead to get people involved in Syracuse,” Clifton added.
She said one of the things that impressed her at the meeting in Lackawanna was the broad range of support it drew from leaders and members, legislators and community residents.
“It wasn’t just African Americans and Caribbean Americans who came to the meeting,” Clifton said, “and I was delighted to see that.”