SB 1, with REaL data, Signed!

SB 1, including REaL (Race, Ethnicity, and Language) data, was signed into law by Governor Lamont today! This wide-ranging piece of legislation seeks to equalize comprehensive access to mental, behavioral and physical health care in response to the pandemic.

More commonly referred to as a bill declaring racism a public health crisis, S.B. 1, through the inclusion of REaL data legislation, will aim to identify and address the racial inequities across healthcare in Connecticut through the standardization of data collection by race, ethnicity, and language. REaL data legislation has the potential to improve the quality of healthcare provided to all CT residents, and especially residents of color, by illuminating demographic healthcare trends across our state.

“REaL data is so important because what gets measured gets done. Data shapes the planning, the implementation, and the delivery of services and all grant proposals start with a needs assessment. 

With REaL data reporting, organizations will have an opportunity to present data demonstrating health inequities and seek the funding they need to provide real solutions. In this way, REaL data is pivotal to discerning REAL solutions.” – Therese LeFevre, Co-Chair of CONECT

Clean Slate Signed!

Clean Slate (SB 1019) was signed into law yesterday by the Office of Governor Ned Lamont – a huge victory after three years of sustained organizing work!  

“Let this hard-fought win be a model for how states across the country can begin to end the continuing harm of mass incarceration, particularly in its targeting of Black and brown individuals, and build safer, more prosperous communities.” – Rev. Anthony L. Bennett, pastor of Mt. Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport and co-chair of CONECT

How this will impact and improve the lives of an estimated 2-300,000 in CT is the real victory. Thanks and congrats to the leaders of this campaign who had the courage and strength to share their own stories to help make this happen — hear their voices in this video.

CONECT Welcomes 8 New Members!

On Dec 2nd, at a zoom Delegates Assembly with 204 leaders present, CONECT welcomed 8 new member congregations and institutions, broadening even further our membership base and building our organized people and organized money power. The new members include:
• First Baptist Church, Milford
• First Church Congregational, Fairfield
• St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fairfield
• New Haven Friends Meeting, New Haven
• Alliance for Community Empowerment, Bridgeport
• A New Beginning Recovery Homes, New Haven
• Christ Chapel New Testament Church, New Haven
• Cornerstone Community Church, Norwalk

We welcome these new members with excitement and enthusiasm. In addition to bringing great spirit, values, and talents to the mix in CONECT, they collectively represent over 5000 people and have committed over $27,000 in dues to CONECT for 2021!

453 Gather for Virtual Assembly with Sen. Blumenthal, Rep. Himes, Rep. Hayes, and key state legislators

On June 15th, more than 450 CONECT leaders and allies joined a virtual Assembly on zoom with key federal legislators — Sen. Blumenthal, Rep. Himes & Rep. Hayes — and state legislative leaders — Senate President Looney, Senate Majority Leader Duff, and the co-chairs of the Public Health and Judiciary Committees to address issues related to COVID-19, Police Accountability, and systemic racism. See these press links:

CT Mirror: “A very broad power base”

WSHU Radio News:

July 4th, 2020 Reflection — A nation in need of repentance & humility

As we mark Independence Day this year, we have an opportunity to reflect much more deeply on our nation than 4th of July parades, barbeques, and fireworks shows typically allow.  Perhaps the fact that we cannot hold these types of superficial celebrations due to the COVID pandemic will create the space for more of us to acknowledge and begin to reckon with the ugly, shameful, and painful aspects of our history, rather than simply celebrating our triumphs and sweeping the rest under the rug.

As our diverse faith traditions teach us, it is only in confessing our sins and then in taking action to rectify them that we can truly reconcile with those we have harmed and redeem ourselves.  And it is only in restoring justice with each other that we can restore our righteousness in the eyes of God.  

So too, the US, Connecticut, and our communities in Fairfield & New Haven counties must acknowledge our transgressions and take meaningful action to restore fairness and justice.  Only in doing so can we have any chance of someday living up to the audacious claim, so often made at this time of the year, that we are the greatest nation on earth.  Truthfully, America has never really been great for Black, brown, indigenous, and poor people.

The US was founded with the virtuous ideals of liberty and justice for all and the stubborn realities of highly entrenched systems of white supremacy and economic exploitation.  As a new nation, we counted Black people as only 3/5s of a person and restricted voting to landowning or wealthy men.  We have been struggling with both of these flaws ever since — sometimes progressing, sometimes retrenching.  At times, we have struggling with racial and economic injustice openly, but more often these tensions have been just below the surface.  With the COVID pandemic and recession and the resurgent and broadened movement for Black Lives since the police murder of George Floyd a month ago, we are struggling with both more openly and head-on than at any time in at least a generation.  This reckoning is long past due.

Yes, there has been important progress on racial justice at times in our history, but to dwell on the Civil Rights era only is to ignore or diminish the 400-year history of slavery, racial terrorism and violence, and systemic, institutionalized racism.  We must avoid the temptation to reduce this legacy to Southern history, because this very much a part of Connecticut’s history and legacy too.  On economic justice, upward economic mobility has been broadly accessible during some periods in our history, but since the 1970s we have seen income and wealth inequality increase dramatically to historic levels, making the American Dream more myth than reality.

Here in Connecticut, one of the wealthiest states in the US, racial and economic disparities remain eyepopping and obvious – this history is present with us:

  • Connecticut is consistently ranked among the worst three states in the US for income inequality – in Fairfield County, the top 1% makes 62 times the income of the other 99%.
  • Connecticut is among the most racially segregated states in the US – with little to no affordable or multifamily housing in many suburbs due to exclusionary zoning far worse the Silicon Valley; 
  • Because of our extreme housing segregation, Connecticut’s schools are funded at hugely different levels based on local property taxes (one of the worst opportunity gaps in the US), resulting in lower educational achievements of black and Latinx children, on average, than white children;
  • Connecticut’s criminal justice system has among the worst disparities in the US.  Though the state population is almost 70% white, the state’s prison population is over 70% people of color.  Black people are incarcerated at rate more than 9.4 times that of white people and Hispanic people at 3.9 times that of white people.

The 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession only exacerbated these racial and economic divides – while banks were bailed out and corporate executives paid bonuses, millions of Americans lost their homes and their wealth.  The current COVID pandemic and related recession seem to be following the same pattern — already reports indicate that the wealth of the nation’s billionaires is up 20% in the last three months, when 45 million Americans have been laid off.

In 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech entitled “What to the slave is the 4th of July?”, agitating for the end of slavery: 

The time for such argument is passed… For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

His words ring true today nearly 170 years later.  This past month perhaps has felt like a storm and a whirlwind.  But if this country and state are to redeem ourselves, we must embrace this 2020 thunder and be roused to bold action.

We believe it is an act of patriotism to acknowledge and confront these truths and to commit ourselves again to take action to reverse them in repentance for the full history of the country we have inherited.  So, this July 4th, we recommit as an organization to:

  • redouble our work internally to study, dialogue, and engage together on racism and white supremacy (especially our white members), confront our biases and blind-spots, and work to grow as an anti-racist organization;
  • organize with people from all racial and ethnic roots, faith traditions, economic classes, and geographies;
  • name, confront, and challenge systems of white supremacy and economic oppression;
  • take action on issues of white supremacy, racial injustice, and economic exploitation and inequality wherever we find them locally, regionally, and nationally.

May we bless America for all by doing this hard work together across CONECT and with many partners whom we will both follow and lead.  Though we may tire and lose hope at times, we will fight on until victory is won.  We still believe, with persistent pressure from organized people, America’s founding ideals can extend to all of us.

CONECT, Allies pack hearing on Clean Slate

54 CONECT leaders along with dozens of other allies from the ACLU of CT, the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance, the Katal Center, #cut50, and others packed the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Clean Slate legislation in Hartford on March 9th. 4 CONECT leaders testified in support of SB 403 — some waiting about 8 hours to do so. Here are a few initial press links:
NBC CT news
Hartford Courant
CT News Junkie

CONECT leaders keep pressure on for “robust” Clean Slate law

CONECT leaders have continued to press in the weeks since our Jan 30th Winter Assembly and the start of the legislative session on Feb 5th for a robust Clean Slate law that includes people with felony records. On Feb 19th, CONECT leaders gave Gov. Lamont 805 signed postcards encouraging him to support a broader Clean Slate bill.

See some of these recent press accounts: