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Katal New York Update — February 15, 2024

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Save the Date: Info Session on Rikers and Receivership on Thurs. March 7th

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Join us on Thursday, March 7, 2024, to learn more about what a receiver is and how it could impact efforts to shut Rikers. Register here for the info session!

For years, community groups and advocates have worked to reduce the city’s jail population and shut down Rikers. That work continues. Now, as the crisis worsens and the death toll rises, the federal courts are becoming more deeply involved and could order an independent receiver to take control of Rikers.

People and families directly impacted by Rikers, along with community and advocacy groups, know that the jail complex must be shut down – and until then, we must do everything we can to improve the conditions for people who are detained there and who work there. That is why a growing number of community groups and city, state, and federal officials are calling for a federal receiver to take over at Rikers. Please join us!

For a full list of groups and officials that have come out in support of a receiver at Rikers, check out this support list.  To add your group to the list, sign up here

Please join us! If you have any questions, please contact Yonah Zeitz at

Rest in Power Joseph “Jazz” Hayden

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From our co-executive director, gabriel sayegh:

Please join us in celebrating the life and work of a movement legend from Harlem. Joseph “Jazz” Hayden passed away last month. Thanks to the work of organizer Five Maulimm-ak, Jazz was the subject of this terrific tribute profile in WNYC and Gothamist.

If you don’t know about Jazz, this is a great time to learn about his enormous contributions to our movements. From the article in Gothamist: 

“Hayden’s friends and family said he laid the groundwork for movements to legalize marijuana, end solitary confinement and expand voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, long before they were popular. Fellow organizers said he trained and educated many of the people who are leading those movements today.”

Jazz was an organizer and mentor who was always working to  change the system. He would take everyday hustlers, people who went to jail, to realize that they can actually better their community, and they’re the best person to better their community,” Five told WNYC. 

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Jazz was fighting for the rights of currently and formerly incarcerated people in part by suing then-Governor George Pataki. While the lawsuit didn’t ultimately succeed  in court, it did bring enormous attention to the issues of voting rights and how formerly incarcerated people were disfranchised.  Particularly through this early work, Jazz set a powerful example for other formerly incarcerated people. As movement leader Victor Pate told WNYC, “Just to think the fact that one of us could sit at the table with people that we never thought we would be in the same space or time with, was an inspiration.” 

After the 2008 elections, Jazz co-founded a media project called Still Here Harlem, seeking to build the “CNN of Harlem.” The community-based effort was covered in The New York Times. Of course, Jazz used media as an organizing tool. From the Times article: 

Upon his release (from prison) he became a community organizer. “As I educated myself and developed, I began to see opportunity in other areas,” Mr. Hayden said. “I started to work on changing the system — on trying to reform the system.” Community organizing, he added, “felt like the most natural thing in the world to me.”

When compared to the New York of 25 years ago – or even compared to other states today –New York has made tremendous progress in the fight to end mass incarceration. We have a lot farther to go, no question. But we’re here in part because Jazz and others like him started to organize and fight back even when it seemed like there was no hope or no chance of winning. Like any good organizer, Jazz worked to make the impossible possible, and the possible inevitable. 

A memorial service for Jazz, organized by Five, Victor, and friends and family, will be held on Saturday, February 24, 2024, at 3 pm at Riverside Church (490 Riverside Dr). This event is a tribute to a remarkable individual who worked to build the movements we are a part of today. Click here to learn more.  

Outreach to Shut Rikers

  • Bronx: This Saturday, February 17th at 9:30 am we’ll be doing outreach and flyering at a food pantry in Claremont. 
  • Brooklyn: On Thursday, February 29th at 1 pm, we’ll be tabling in Brownsville.
Do you live in Claremont or Brownsville? Want to connect with us in person and discuss ways to join the fight to shut down Rikers? Please reach out to Melanie at or by phone at (516) 588-0127.

Katal in the News

Last week, our lead organizer Melanie Dominguez joined Black Agenda Report to discuss the City Council’s veto override of the How Many Stops Act and ending solitary confinement in NYC jails. Check out the full interview here. 

Katal Quotes of the Week

These are some of the quotes we’re thinking about this week.

“Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.” –Maya Angelou

“A democratic state is not proven by the welfare of the strong but by the welfare of the weak.” –June Jordan

“Oppressed people, whatever their level of formal education, have the ability to understand and interpret the world around them, to see the world for what it is, and move to transform it.”–Ella Baker



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Katal works to strengthen the people, policies, institutions, and movements that advance equity, health, and justice. Join us: web, Twitter, Facebook! Email: Phone: 64 6.875.8822.

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