By Jane Canner
On Tuesday, October 24, Rockaway Women for Progress (RWP) was pleased to host Annabel Palma, Chairperson of the NYC Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR), and Kajori Chaudhury, Deputy Commissioner, as speakers at a regularly scheduled Zoom meeting for our members. We invited Commissioner Palma because of how the Commission’s work aligns with RWP’s mission which includes “to respect, honor and protect the dignity of all people in Rockaway and beyond.”
We were informed and inspired by Palma’s presentation. She began by saying, “Everyone in the city has to work for the NYC community and we all want a better world.” She was born and raised in the Bronx and learned from her mother the immense power of bringing people together for good when her mother worked with other tenants to ensure that they got heat and hot water in their apartments.
Palma believes that fear and divisions in the city often come from not understanding our differences. She wants everyone in the city to know that they have human rights and to feel respected and able to be their “authentic selves.”
The Commission is charged with enforcing NYC’s Human Rights Law, educating the public, and encouraging positive community relations, in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations. They do this through a Law Enforcement Bureau, which investigates complaints alleging violations of the law; and a Community Relations Bureau, which provides educational and outreach programs, and has Community Service Centers that work with local partners. Palma emphasizes prevention of discrimination, as well as enforcement and education.
RWP members asked how the Commission addresses housing for long-term NYC residents as well as migrants. Palma said that while the NYCCHR’s mandate is not to ensure housing, it protects against housing discrimination for all, including, for example, people with housing vouchers, regardless of immigration status. Others asked how they work to combat hate among diverse groups. Palma talked about their work with local community groups and community boards, and also their work with the city’s Office of Prevention of Hate Crimes to prevent hate crimes and to deal with problems that arise.
In a time of rising tensions locally and globally – from Rockaway, NYC, the nation, to beyond – the work of individuals such as Palma and agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights is vital. RWP will continue our relationship with the Commission and is proud to share their values. We also strive to work with others in the community who are interested in hearing or doing more to reduce tensions, improve communication, and eliminate hate. Please feel free to contact us at email@example.com.