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Forest Hills Residents Form Group to Increase Black Political Advocacy, Inaugural Meeting Thursday

Titilayo Yasukawa, president of the new group (Photo: Courtesy of Color of Justice)

May 12, 2021 By Ryan Songalia

A group of Black residents in Forest Hills have formed a political group that aims to address issues pertaining to the minority community in the district.

The organization, called the Color of Justice, aims is to educate its members on how to get involved in the political process, while confronting issues specific to the experiences of Black people in the community.

The group will be holding its first meeting via Zoom on Thursday at 7 p.m., and will meet every second Thursday of the month. People of all backgrounds are welcome to be part of the meeting.

The group’s president, Titilayo Yasukawa, says the organization was formed by a number of members of the Queens Central Democratic Club.

She said that after George Floyd was murdered, she only found true comfort speaking about racial issues with the members of the COJ group she has helped found.

“I was just thinking, a lot of these institutions and things were not created with us in mind. So I wanted a space that was created with us in mind,” Yasukawa said.

Though Black people only account for about 3 percent of the population in the area, there are a number of issues in the district that have a direct impact on the Black community there, Yasukawa says.

Some members are concerned that police officers at the NYPD’s 112th Precinct may be racial profiling.

There has been racial tension regarding the city’s plan to integrate School District 28, Yasukawa says. The plan involves providing children in low-income areas of the school district—such as Black children from Jamaica– with an opportunity to go to better schools in the district that are primarily white and Asian in Forest Hills.

The group has seven founders,Titilayo Yasukawa, President, Gideon Zvulon, Vice-President, Natalie Dauphin, Communications Director, Travelle Barksdale, Community Engagement Director, and Executive Board Founding Members Melanie Rudolfo, Rosa Hall, and Tania Padgett.

The founding board consists of local activists and organizers, executives and entrepreneurs, some of whom are community board members and parent association leaders.

Yasukawa says she doesn’t have an estimate as to how many people will participate in Thursday’s meeting, but she says she has seen a number of people registering for the event.

She said that it is important that the members get to know the political process.

Yasukawa says that she didn’t know the function of community boards and the city council, prior to Donald Trump being elected president in 2016. Now she doesn’t miss a community board meeting, and finds that understanding the functions of institutions like that is key to empowerment.

“I think that that’s where a lot of power comes from, from being able to have your voice represented by being at the table of this level of local government and civic engagement,” said Yasukawa.

The first objective is to build membership and to educate about the local political process, says the group’s Vice President Gideon Zvulon. Larger goals include addressing social justice, plus inequities in education, housing, public health and business.

Yasukawa says she has seen some glimmers of hope. Community Board 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, recently added more Black representation to its members. She hopes to see more voices speaking up to advocate for issues that are vital to Black people.

Those interest in registering for the meeting should click here

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