For over 30 years, the Urban Justice Center has fought for the rights of some of the most marginalized people in our city, our country, and our world. Today, we'd like to share with you some of our incredible successes from 2018, which show the resilience of our clients, the integrity of our staff, and the myriad of areas we work in.
A Note From Doug
This has been a dark year for our country,
and for the world.
I won’t sugarcoat it — I believe our democracy is endangered.
New regimes of cruelty are tearing families apart at our borders, while the old signs of fascism have gained new life in streets and statehouses around our great country. But in the face of these terrible forces, new forms of resistance are blossoming, and the Urban Justice Center is dedicated to helping them grow.
For the last three decades, we’ve supported cutting edge legal projects, but today, we’ve made it our official mission: We provide a platform for dynamic advocates to fuel social change, leading the way for a just, fair, and decent society.
What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means that we are gearing up to launch up to five new Projects in 2019, each focusing on an underserved community in danger. Through our new Social Justice Accelerator, we’re inviting the next generation of change makers and thought leaders to become part of the Urban Justice Center, as you will see further down in this report.
It also means we've embraced a new look and a new logo for 2019, as you might have already noticed. As our long-term supporters, you’ll be some of the first to get a peek at our new logo, colors, and design. We were guided through this process by incredible pro-bono work of the branding firm Superunion, and I’m certain you’ll love the results as much as we do.
In the face of impending fascism, justice is just us – the community of those who will step up and resist. We’re so glad to have you on our side. Thank you for your support yesterday, today, and most crucially, tomorrow.
Executive Director of Urban Justice Center
In 1989, 17-year-old Heath Phillips was a fresh-faced Naval recruit, eager to serve his country.
Once on his assigned ship, however, he was sexually and physically assaulted by a group of six other sailors. Despite repeated reports to his superiors, Heath was given no support or chance to transfer. After 48 days of unending assault, he escaped – only to be arrested, returned, and assaulted again. Four more times, Heath ran away only to be returned to his attackers. Heath went AWOL one final time, beginning nearly two decades of alcohol abuse and PTSD, with no support from Veterans Affairs.
After nearly ending his life, Heath got sober. Unlike many survivors of sexual violence, he began to tell his story publicly. Advocating for survivors became his mission.
Three times he applied to have his discharge status upgraded, so he could access the life-saving services he desperately needed; three times, the Navy denied him. That’s when Heath became a client of our Veteran Advocacy Project, who worked with him for years on a fourth application, and finally convinced the Navy that he deserved an honorable discharge. Thanks to Heath’s persistence (and the assistance of our lawyers and advocates), justice was finally served.
I do not know how to thank vap enough for sticking with me and being a huge part in this.
never did I think I could win.
Heath Phillips, VAP Client
“Every day, I go to ASAP’s online community and look at the questions mothers are posting. Getting an answer from ASAP’s attorneys makes us believe that there is hope.”
Andrea, ASAP Client
Long before the Trump administration began their cruel policy of separating asylum-seeking children from their parents, our Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) was providing representation to families in some of the most ignored areas in the country. Without representation, according to one study, asylum seekers win their cases less than 3% of the time.
ASAP knew that many Americans want to help immigrants fleeing danger, so based on their experience, they developed a guide: “Vindicating the Rights of Asylum Seekers at the Border and Beyond: A Guide to Representing Asylum Seekers in Expedited Removal and Reinstatement of Removal Proceedings.” This guide is yet another way in which ASAP is strengthening the country-wide community of progressive advocates, while protecting marginalized immigrants at the same time. By empowering asylum seekers and their supporters, ASAP is building a powerful coalition to resist the Trump administration’s attacks on vulnerable families.
Incarcerated people rely on phone calls to connect with loved ones. Profiting off that bit of human connection is cold and dehumanizing.
To be part of the team responsible for restoring that love is righteous. It makes me feel I didn’t forget those I left behind.
Lawrence Bartley, CAP Program Assistant
Lawrence Bartley, Program Assistant at CAP, speaking alongside Bianca Tylek, Project Director of CAP (right)
For years, prisoners in New York City have been charged exorbitant fees to make phone calls, creating millions of dollars in profit not just for prison telecom companies, but also for our city government, which raked in over $5,000,000 annually on the backs of imprisoned people and their communities. To those in jail, these calls are a literal lifeline; to our government, they are an easy way to turn a quick buck.
Or at least they were until earlier this year, when our Corrections Accountability Project (CAP) – in concert with a coalition of concerned organizations – helped to pass critical legislation mandating that all calls from city jails be free, and prohibiting the city from profiting off them. Now New York City is the only jurisdiction in the nation to ban this cruel form of prison exploitation. This will save low-income communities of color in New York nearly $10,000,000 a year, but the true measure of success is knowing that imprisoned people will no longer be isolated from their loved ones and their only means of support, simply because they can’t afford the price of a phone call.
Earlier this year, UJC was honored to exhibit original photos from the Jerome Avenue Workers Project, an initiative of the Bronx Photo League at the Bronx Documentary Center. The Bronx Photo League is made up of 16 Bronx photographers committed to documenting social issues and change in the borough. This exhibition celebrates the workers and trades people of Jerome Avenue, one of our city’s few remaining working class neighborhoods where many still make a living in small shops and factories, or repairing automobiles. For more information about the Bronx Documentary Center, please visit bronxdoc.org.
The Jerome Avenue Workers Project exhibition was displayed in our office via Art@UJC, our ongoing series of social justice related art exhibits. If you or someone you know is interested in exhibiting with Art@UJC, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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