MVOC racks up successes

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Political forum: The Junior Civic League and the Community Mobilization Coalition will host a forum at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 7 in the Fellowship Hall of the New Bethel Church, 1507 Hillman St. in Youngstown. Those invited to attend are candidates for Youngstown mayor, council president and the board of education. Also, the two charter amendments — a fracking ban and the elimination of the park and recreation commission — on the Nov. 5 ballot will be discussed.

Youngstown City Council’s resolution in opposition to a proposed Stand Your Ground law in the state and a congressional proposal for national reciprocity for concealed-carry handgun permits was largely the work of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative.

The MVOC, founded seven years ago, is a community organizing group that advocates for racial, social and economic justice issues.

And its influence in city policy is growing.

In addition to Stand Your Ground, the MVOC was heavily involved in the city’s groundbreaking foreclosure bond regulation. That law requires a $10,000 bond from banks that own foreclosed properties.

Neighborhood groups

The MVOC has helped create numerous neighborhood groups and established the Youngstown Neighborhood Leadership Council.

It also supports demolishing vacant and dilapidated houses in the city’s neighborhoods, and actively lobbies Youngstown officials to get certain structures taken down.

The organization hasn’t had much luck getting a fracking ban in place in Youngstown. But the MVOC is a strong backer of the so-called Community Bill of Rights that will reappear on the Nov. 5 ballot. City voters rejected the proposed charter amendment in May.

The Stand Your Ground vote is a resolution — it’s just Youngstown council urging the state Legislature not to vote in favor of the proposed bill and Congress not to pass a law allowing those with concealed-carry handgun permits in one state to be able to pack heat when in another state.

What are the reasons the MVOC urged council to vote in support of the proposal, which it did unanimously on Wednesday?

In an MVOC prepared statement, the Rev. Michael H. Harrison Sr., pastor of Union Baptist Church in Youngstown, who spearheaded this effort for the collaborative and is black, said of Stand Your Ground: “It seems to sanction the legal killing of minorities, especially African-American males because of a whim or notion of intimidation and totally removes police responsibility for protecting the citizenship of Ohio.”

Stand Your Ground became a national hot-button issue after George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin in Florida on Feb. 26, 2012.

Zimmerman, a Hispanic, killed Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black male, contending he felt threatened. A jury acquitted Zimmerman in July of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

I asked Allan Irizarry-Graves, an MVOC organizer and young black man, the contact on the group’s Stand Your Ground press release, about the statements from the Rev. Harrison.

Like Harrison, Irizarry-Graves agreed that the proposed Ohio law “targets young minority males. If you feel your being threatened, you can shoot as you please. As a young minority male walking and you feel I’m intimidating people because of who I am, you can shoot me.”

(I only mention their race because of their statements.)

When asked if people would feel the same about a young white men, Irizarry-Graves said, “The perception of young white guys isn’t a threat, but a young black guy is.”

If Stand Your Ground is passed in Ohio, Irizarry-Graves said it “will be Jim Crow laws over again. I honestly think it would be the same.”

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