North Star Fund 30th Anniversary Gala
April 30, 2009
Michael Ratner Draft Remarks
Hello, I’m Michael Ratner,
I am a long term supporters of North Star Fund
As a human rights attorney with CCR
I am fiercely dedicated to the same causes as the North Star Fund:
Civil liberties and economic justice
Northstar does what I can’t do in my work:
It finds and supports the most effective grassroots groups that are the real source of social change in this City
Northstar gives me and many of us here the opportunity to make a direct difference with the resources we have—
To support the social and economic change we need so badly
I believe firmly that change begins at the bottom. The only change I would like to make is that people would contribute even more. I like to say that if people want change, they should set aside some of the money they usually give for electing politicians and invest it in the work of North Star Fund and its grantees.
Tonight we honor one of NY’s and the Nation’s truly outstanding grassroots groups organizing for economic justice.
Community Voices Heard
Community Voices Heard was founded in Harlem in 1994 by a group of 80 people, mostly women—-
–some homeless; many on welfare and mostly unemployed—
–they were tired of hostile govt officials–
—they were tired of the compromises made by those who claimed to advocate on their behalf—
—they wanted to speak for themselves and their community
They demanded to be heard—and heard loudly—
Heard loudly on issues of homelessness, welfare and unemployment—
Community Voices Heard believed then —as it does today—
That the power of low-income people, particularly women, is built through an organization that low-income people control and lead.
And that is what is has done and done successfully—-
Today Community Voices Heard is a 28,000-member force for poor and working people, led by poor and working people—-
Community Voices Heard organizes to change public policy and practices concerning welfare, job training, public housing and other crucial economic justice issues that affect the community’s members.
CVH has had many victories. Here are just a few examples:
- CVH mobilized 12,000 poor voters in over 50 electoral districts for the 2008 election.
- CVH pushed the City to create more than 20,000 paid transitional jobs for welfare recipients
- CVH pushed then-Governor Elliot Spitzer to sign the Shelter Allowance Bill which will provide $47 million annually for the NYC Housing Authority’s operating budget.
- CVH stopped a 25% benefit reduction in welfare grants & saved welfare for childless adults.
CVH has demonstrated that Social change comes through building and maintaining strong, powerful, independent people’s organizations.
It has put into practice what many of us preach. And done it well—-
It is my honor to present this 2009 Frederick Douglass Award to a North Star grantee that has become a major force for economic justice in our city and state- a time when such a force is sorely needed–