On Saturday, September 17, Long Island community members, housing advocates, and clergy marched through Nassau County to demand safe, stable housing opportunities and to encourage their neighbors to join that fight.
The new coalition of community groups, known as the Housing For All Long Island (H4ALI) Coalition, started their day with a rally in Commack, Suffolk County, before relocating to Nassau for a more than 10-mile march from Rockville Centre through Baldwin, Freeport, Roosevelt, Hempstead, and finally Mineola.
The marchers, whose number ranged from several dozen people to (briefly, in the hottest part of the day) just a handful of activists, chanted and sang along Nassau County sidewalks for nearly seven hours. Dozens of cars honked in support, and workers at many businesses along the route stopped to watch their progress, often with an encouraging smile or comment.
Representatives from nearly a dozen community organizations spoke and marched throughout the day, including William Bailey, Community and Education Organizer for New York Communities for Change, Bob Eilbott of the New York State Poor People’s Campaign, members of New Hour Long Island and the Flatbush Tenants Coalition, and Pastor Arthur L. Mackey, Jr. of Roosevelt’s Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral.
At one point, Pastor Mackey led the exuberant and determined marchers (whose ranks included one toddler and one dog) in a series of melodic, call-and-response chants for almost 15 minutes straight that reached out to passers by and to drivers at stoplights in his warm, slightly growling baritone voice.
Pastor Mackey was one of many who kept the energy flowing, ever-marching in the warm sunshine with a mic in one hand and his cane in the other; as the group approached Freeport’s LIRR station for a planned rally and break there, he and marching companion Gerline Jones-Harris, a member of his church and a retired NYS Corrections nurse, led marchers in harmonized, often housing-related verses of “This Little Light of Mine.”
“Housing inequities & insecurity are impacting people from a variety of racial and socio-economic backgrounds,” commented Nia Adams, Operations & Project Coordinator for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, one of more than a dozen organizations to support and join the Housing For All Long Island Coalition, in an email to Anton Media Group following the event.
“In fact, Long Island is often left out of the larger housing justice conversation, but the truth is the entire state is in crisis. The gaps in these inequities are only growing, yet we are not seeing growth in people’s salaries or benefits … instead they are being buried under school and medical debt whilst luxury developments go up and displace local communities.”
“We have already seen that the predatory practices of red-lining still prevail in Long Island. When you add this to the ever-rising rent rates, unethical rental practices, and lack of infrastructure and access, you essentially create a class war where only wealthy individuals can prosper,” Adams continued.
“Housing is a human right that impacts mental-emotional wellness and economic opportunity and justice, as well as being a public safety necessity. We need actions taken now to provide real solutions for working class people, with the understanding that when we address root causes we help create thriving and sustainable communities for all.”