The Schenectady County Human Rights Commission was established in 1965 to foster mutual respect and enhance understanding among all racial, religious and ethnic groups in Schenectady County, and to assist individuals in securing their legal rights.
New York State Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in: employment, housing, credit, places of public accommodation, volunteer firefighting, non-sectarian educational institutions based on age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, disability, military status, arrest record, conviction record, familial status and predisposing genetic characteristics. If you, or someone you know, experience discrimination in any of these areas, you can file a complaint through the Human Rights Commission. Who are we? The Commission, composed of 15 Commissioners appointed by the County Legislature, is the policy-making body of the Human Rights Department of the County Government. What do we do? The Commission staff assists with complaints of discrimination based on race, creed, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, military status, age, marital status, disability, prior arrest or conviction record and predisposing genetic characteristics.
The Commission, composed of 15 Commissioners appointed by the County Legislature, is the policy-making body of the Human Rights Department of the County Government.
What do we do?
The Commission staff assists with complaints of discrimination based on race, creed, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, military status, age, marital status, disability, prior arrest or conviction record and predisposing genetic characteristics.
If you, or someone you know, experience discrimination in any of these areas, you can file a complaint through the Human Rights Commission.
- 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Virtual Celebration
Dr. Janet Dewart Bell
JANET DEWART BELL is a communications strategist and management consultant with a multimedia background, as well as experience in policy advocacy, strategic planning, fund development, media training, and education. She is a social justice advocate, activist, executive coach, and motivational speaker, with a doctorate in Leadership and Change from Antioch University. She is the author of Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement.
Among her accomplishments are an Emmy® for outstanding individual achievement (CBS-TV affiliate in Washington, DC) and programming for National Public Radio honored with a Peabody award, considered the highest award in broadcasting.
She has been a key strategist and senior executive at a number of national organizations, including The Opportunity Agenda, PolicyLink, the National Urban League, the National Committee on Household Employment, and National Public Radio (NPR). She was Director of Communications and Public Relations for District Council 37, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), in New York City. As a Visiting Research Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, she developed and taught a course on Effective Advocacy and co-taught a constitutional law course with her husband Professor Derrick Bell.
She developed and managed The Opportunity Agenda’s acclaimed Communications Institute, a four-day, intensive multi-media training for social justice advocates. As Director of Communications at PolicyLink, Bell was instrumental in developing the organization’s collaborative approach to advocacy and communications and developed the trademark “Lifting up what works.”® As Director of Communications at the National Urban League, she was the League’s chief communications strategist and editor of The State of Black America. As part of AFL-CIO delegations, she has taught trade unionists in Morocco and Tunisia. She was the Chairperson of the District of Columbia Commission for Women and represented the District at the International Conference of Women in Nairobi, Kenya.
Bell established the Derrick Bell Lecture Series on Race in American Society at the New York University School of Law, now in its twenty-fourth year. Along with other lead donors, she helped establish in 2012 the Derrick Bell Fund for Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Professor Bell’s alma mater, to honor his memory and legacy. See www.professorderrickbell.com. She has also endowed the Janet Dewart Bell scholarship at Baruch College, where she earned a Master’s.
Bell is the founder and president of LEAD InterGenerational Solutions, Inc. A nonprofit dedicated to developing intergenerational leadership as social change agents. She serves on the boards of CancerCare, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the Women’s Media Center.
She is an ordained elder, serving at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, an intentionally inclusive and diverse Christian community, where all are welcome.
- Executive Director
“The challenge of social justice is to evoke a sense of community that we need to make our nation a better place, just as we make it a safer place.” – Marian Edelman Wright
Arthur Butler is a servant leader with 20 years’ experience as a progressive manager, community organizer and advocate. Mr. Butler brings a wealth of expertise in human rights, policy analysis, health and human services programs designed to improve human conditions and intergroup relations in the community - especially for those underserved, impoverished and marginalized.
As a cofounder and former Executive Director of a nonprofit organization in Albany, Butler has worked for decades to promote community empowerment via innovative and culturally specific initiatives grounded in equity and evidenced based practices. According to Arthur, “The life of those who came before and those who will come after me must be influenced by our stories. Not just how we got over but how we endure until the end, that we never lost sight, that we continued no matter how many times knocked down, we always got back up.”
Arthur believes in providing a solid foundation and uncompromising presence in community where all can live a life of quality, worthy of dignity while advocating and showcasing the inherent talents of an empowered community.
In addition to his local executive career, Butler has worked with national organizations and advisory boards to attain and preserve the civil rights of minority groups. His personal and professional focus is 'to address ways in which structural racism can be dismantled, while creating tools to improve the lives of those excluded from economic, social, educational, and political life in the United States'. He firmly commits to utilize his leadership to further the rich lessons learned from historical struggles and expand to contemporary quests for economic and social justice. Butler draws on a wellspring deeply rooted in service, family, community and faith to build a brighter tomorrow.
Cyierra Roldan joined the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission as a commissioner in October 2020. She is a policy analyst at the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) working in FPI’s Immigration Research Initiative. At FPI, she develops local and state-level policy options and analyzes budget implications and impacts on immigrant communities and local economies in order to propose better and more supportive policies for all New Yorkers. Cyierra graduated from Colgate University with a B.A. in sociology. Cyierra has also received her Masters of Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University of Albany in 2019. She also sits as a board member for the Board of Trustees for Brown School, a private school located in Schenectady, NY. During her undergraduate career, she was a dedicated advocate for many groups across Colgate’s campus including students of color and was a Lavender graduate for being a dedicated ally to the LGBTQ community. Roldan worked as a research assistant on a study of students who were the first in their families to go to college and was a member of the university’s Intergroup Dialogue Advisory Board that strove for diversity and inclusivity in the academic and social sphere.
Dr. DeShawn N. McGarrity has served on the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission since 2018. Professionally she is the Executive Director of the Schenectady College and Career Outreach Center (SCCOC), a division of SUNY Schenectady County Community College and has over 20 years of higher education experience. Dr. McGarrity holds a D.M. (Doctor of Management) in Community College Policy and Administration from the University of Maryland Global Campus, an M.A. in Women's Studies from the University at Albany and a B.A. in Speech Communication from SUNY Potsdam. She is a recipient of the 2018 SUNY Educational Opportunity Program Distinguished Alumni Award presented by the SUNY System Administration Office of Opportunity Programs and she serves on various boards, committees in the community and maintains various professional memberships within the higher education profession. Dr. McGarrity resides in Rotterdam, New York.
Dr. Steady Moono began his tenure at Schenectady County Community College on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Dr. Moono earned a bachelor’s degree from Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where he says that before he found two mentors who helped him feel at home, he struggled academically. That experience helped shape his educational philosophies, as he would later found and oversee a nationally recognized mentoring program for minority students during his nearly 10 years at Montgomery County Community College’s West Campus in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where he most recently served as Vice President. Dr. Moono's work to establish the Minority Male Mentoring Program has been widely recognized. He is the recipient of the Yaffe-Smith Civil Rights Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Education and was named “Outstanding First Year Student Advocate” by the National Resource Center. He was awarded the 2011 Innovation of the Year Award at Montgomery County Community College. In 2009, Dr. Moono co-authored a textbook titled “Thriving in the Community College and Beyond (Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development).” In 2013, Dr. Moono published “Rules of the Road: The Tonga Proverbs,” with the goal of sharing with his children and others the traditions and rituals that he experienced growing up in Zambia. Dr. Moono has earned a B.A. in Education from Messiah College, an M.A. in Counseling and Theology from the Biblical Theological Seminary, an M.A. in English from Arcadia University and a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Immaculata University. Dr. Moono and his wife have two children.
Maureen Obie has lived in Schenectady County since 2000. She has been a Schenectady Civilian Review Board Member (and Outreach Committee member) since 2018, a coordinator for Albany Citizen’s Police Review Board from 2014 until 2017, an NAACP member (inc. Criminal Justice Committee and Nominating Executive Committee member), a Woodlawn Park Redevelopment Committee Member since 2010, a Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association member since 2017.
Maureen holds a bachelor's degree from Excelsior College and is employed as a Community Life Service Coordinator for The Community Builders, Inc.
Nikita Hardy is a well-respected, service-oriented community-engager and Entrepreneur with over 14 years of progressive experience in leadership development, coaching, strategic planning, and diversity & inclusion, including having held dynamic roles within legislative, state and local government.
She recently has taken on several endeavors to further causes impacting marginalized communities. Most notably her passion for birth justice and breastfeeding advocacy led her to organize the Capital Region Black Breastfeeding Empowerment Network, as well as her committed research on Maternal Mortality of Black Women in America. She is an advocate, educator, public speaker, full-spectrum Doula, and policy enthusiast.
No matter which hat she's wearing, her goal is simple -- to empower women, marginalized communities and thought leaders to drive targeted efforts to achieve measurable results through game-changing legislation, policy and programming.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, she continues her advocacy and civic engagement throughout the State of New York. Ms. Hardy holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science from Brooklyn College and a Master’s in Public Administration from Baruch College Marxe School of Public and International Affairs.
When she isn’t working, Nikita enjoys road trips with her husband and random dance parties with her two daughters. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated.
A native of Schenectady, Omar Sterling McGill resides in the city's historic Stockade District. After an early education in Schenectady parochial and private schools, he attended the prestigious Albany Academy and went on to the HBCU Morehouse College in Atlanta where Omar obtained a BA in Business Administration in 2012. Morehouse was a significant part of his educational journey because it focused on creating academically superior and morally conscious leaders. After graduation, Omar created his own non-profit, 'EPIC,Inc', which helped 800 Atlanta youth prepare for college. A job opportunity in the New York State Assembly brought him back home and eventually to his current position in the New York State Senate. For the past five years Omar’s work at the State Capital has given him great insight into the political process and the development of policy decisions affecting the Minimum Wage, the battle against Heroin and Opioid Addiction, and legalized Ridesharing.
In 2019 Omar accepted a position with the State Senate Democratic Majority which spearheaded an historic and successful legislative season. Currently he serve as the Acting Chairman of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission, as well as the 2nd Vice President of the Schenectady County Branch of the NAACP, Branch 2175.
Additionally, in 2018 Omar was honored to be named to the New Leaders Council for the Capital District. Without the unwavering support of his parents and grandmother none of these achievements would have been possible.
Philip Fields is currently appointed as the Director of Budget for the New York State Assembly Ways and Means Committee. Prior to that he served as Senior Transportation Analyst for the Ways and Means Committee, Senior Analyst for the Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committee, and Analyst for the Real Property Taxation Committee.
Philp is the Deputy Chair of the Schenectady County Legislature and currently Chair the Schenectady County Rules Committee as well as the Schenectady County Ways and Means Committee.
Philip volunteers on the Capital Region Youth Tennis Foundation Board of Directors and other various community and cultural groups. He earned Master’s and Bachelor’s Degrees in Economics from the University at Albany.
Miriam Cajuste is a skilled negotiator and advocate for those marginalized and most often overlooked. Miriam’s persistence and insistence for diversity and inclusion helped to promote a unique understanding of the principles, practices and methods of diversity in the workforce. Miriam has helped in the development of many practices and strategies used by community stakeholders to build, empower and implement Equal Employment Opportunity policies. Miriam designed training initiatives on cultural competency, gender differences, disability, sexual harassment and other topics designed to increase awareness and support of equity and inclusion values while complying with applicable laws. Miriam commitment to excellence and community well-being is a huge part of why she loves to do what she does.
Rabbi Rafi Spitzer has served as rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Agudat Achim since August 1, 2019. He has brought a new energy to the role, focusing especially on adult education, pastoral care, and engaging with our youth. Rabbi Spitzer has been stalwart throughout the recent challenge of living through a pandemic, working with the lay leadership to provide virtual programs, rituals, and opportunities for prayer and worship. Rabbi Spitzer prides himself on his availability to congregants and members of the community, and you can schedule a check-in with him at calendly.com/rabbispitzer. Rabbi Spitzer grew up in Sharon, MA, and was ordained as a rabbi and teacher by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In addition to ordination, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Judaic Studies and received a Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling. Rabbi Spitzer comes to CAA with experience as a hospice chaplain, summer camp unit head, and student rabbi, and he also holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Religion from Boston University. Rabbi Spitzer loves to cook, to read, and has recently begun playing DND with some other rabbis. He lives with his wife Rachael and daughter Ellie in Niskayuna.
Tina Lee is excited to join the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission. Throughout her career, Tina has enjoyed applying her problem-solving skills to help strengthen the community. She was an original member of LA’s Business Team as a business advocate for the City of Los Angeles. She was also the Head of Operations at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she created and implemented policies and procedures to ensure positive visitor experiences. Tina was the Field Director and then Campaign Manager for a recently elected Schenectady County Legislator.
Tina stays connected to various parts of the community as the Secretary of the Niskayuna Co-op Board, Board Member of the Niskayuna Community Foundation, and longtime registrar with Niskayuna Women’s Tennis. She has organized teams of women to compete in 200-mile running relays and dragon boating festivals.
Tina and her husband have raised their three children while living in Schenectady County for the last 20 years. Tina earned her B.S. in engineering from the University of Wisconsin and an M.B.A. from the Anderson School at UCLA.
Zach Calderón joined the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission in December of 2020. He graduated from SUNY Albany in the Spring of 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and currently works as a legal secretary in the Schenectady County Department of Social Services. Previously he has interned with Congressman Tonko, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, CSEA Political Action, and most recently with County Manager Rory Fluman. He believes strongly that progressive activism is a strong catalyst for change, and that human rights. While not at work he enjoys reading, running, and long hikes with his Siberian Husky, Echo.
- Executive Committee
Omar McGill - Acting Chair
The important work of the Human Rights Commission is, in part, achieved through various committees:
ANNUAL AWARDS BREAKFAST COMMITTEE:
This Committee organizes the Annual Breakfast, held each May to recognize and honor individuals and groups for their outstanding service to further human rights in the county.
BOARD DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE:
The Committee is involved in recruitment of individuals to serve as Commissioners and is part of the review process of the County Legislature prior to appointment of Commissioners. The Committee organizes orientation and development for new Commissioners.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. COALITION:
The Coalition organizes the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday celebration, the Charles Brown Art and Essay Competition and the Ralph F. Boyd, Sr. Awards to foster justice and nonviolence.
JAIL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:
The Committee works collaboratively with officials at the Schenectady County Correctional Facility to ensure respect, dignity and civil rights are provided to inmates and their families.
PUBLIC INFORMATION AND EDUCATION:
The Committee informs and educates County citizens of the work
The Committee representing the LGBT community in Schenectady County