South Fork Unity Town Hall Confronts Issues Faced By Vulnerable Communities

Image courtesy of SEPA Mujer

On Sunday, March 5th, nearly 100 people met at the Southampton Town Senior Center for a town hall on the various issues facing vulnerable communities in the area. The meeting was hosted by the South Fork Unity Collaborative, an initiative from the Long Island Unity Collaborative, a group of faith and human rights organizations.

The town hall included a panel of speakers who addressed various concerns, including Irma Solis from the New York Civil Liberties Union – Suffolk County Chapter, Juli Grey-Owens from the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition, Christine Epifania of Alternatives Counseling, Lauren La Magna of the Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic Action Fund, James Banks of the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force, Minerva Perez of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, Fizzah Idrees-Iqubal of the Islamic Center of Long Island, and Rabbi Michael Rascoe of Temple Israel in Riverhead.

Many participants asked about healthcare, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, immigration issues, Islamophobia, Antisemitism, hate crimes, and how to help their children feel safe. As community organizer Lisa Votino-Tarrant pointed out, however, these issues are all tied together, and as a community, they must stand together: “Don’t pigeonhole yourself. These issues affect peoples’ lives on a daily basis.”

Additionally, there were worries about the state of services in the area, which have been stretched thin for some time. “It started in 2007, and it’s only gotten worse,” Epifania told the crowd, “We don’t have the trained people to work on these issues with them, and we have a great need.”

Solis reminded the audience that they have access to First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, the Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment that protects the right to remain silent. “Constitutional rights apply to all persons living in the U.S. regardless of their immigration status,” she told the crowd.

Participants were urged to sign a pledge to “support community members who are in pain and fear for their safety, dignity and well-being…in the face of heightened racial and social tensions as a result of the 2016 election season.”

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Sara Roncero-Menendez is the Online Editor for Long Island Wins. Prior to joining the Long Island Wins team, she graduate from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and worked as a reporter for publications like Mashable, The Huffington Post, and PSFK. She became involved in immigration issues and advocacy while working towards her Masters degree at The University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign. After joining the Graduate Employee Organization Local 6300, she worked on helping international and undocumented students work with the administration to get fair financial aid and fellowship opportunities. Sara also works on issues of representation in mass media, including film and television, and works on media reviews and podcast.

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