Supporting Black Veterans and Social Justice

(Photo by Bill Moore via Amsterdam News)

Ahead of Veterans Day on Sunday, Cyril Josh Barker and Nayara Arinde of Amsterdam News profile Black Veterans for Social Justice, a Bed-Stuy-based organization that is “not only making sure Black vets get their fair share of government programs but is also taking stances on various social issues.”

Brooklyn activist and veteran Job Mashariki founded the organization in 1979 to help, at the time, Black veterans of the Vietnam War. Today, BVSJ offers job placement, mentoring, and health services, and also runs a food pantry. It serves the local community as a whole with a focus on veterans.

“It’s an infant organization, and it is still developing. It is still trying to maintain the base advocacy on behalf of the veteran community and trying to organize the veteran community,” said a modest Mashariki. “We work on advocacy for community development because the founders realized that if the community does well, veterans will do well. So, we step out to support leadership.”

“Today, BVSJ helps veterans and non-veterans with housing and employment for veterans along with other social services,” said BVSL President and CEO Wendy McClinton, a U.S. Army veteran. “On any given year we service 5,000 veterans and their families. We are really trying to change the face of what it means to be a veteran.”

“The issues that the veterans are facing include services that are inadequate,” said Mashiriki, “medical facilities are not sufficient, housing for veterans is very scarce and it should not take 10 years for them to get their academic accomplishments. People are fighting wars and not being able to come back and buy homes. Veterans are being taxed for their injuries. And there is the issue with substance abuse and re-entry.”

Go to Amsterdam News to hear more from Mashariki and McClinton on the organization’s response to the treatment of Sgt. La David Johnson last month, the differences between why Black and white people join the military and the issues that most affect Black veterans.

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