Local Matters

Community Sponsors

Just Kings

March 2, 2021 - 1:15pm
posted by Press Release in news, Notre Dame, Black History Month, Just Kings, batavia.

Submitted photo and press release:

Notre Dame High School is pleased to announce a donation of $345 to Just Kings.

Just Kings is a Batavia-based organization whose mission is to provide a voice for the local Black community. They work to educate and mentor the youth, our neighbors and ourselves as we continue to fight to end racism.

Nya Thomas, a senior at Notre Dame, led the donation drive in honor of Black History Month.

Check out the important work they do at their Facebook page.

Photo: front row, from left: Alonzo Story, Mark Sanders, McKenzie Nenni, Nya Thomas, Ben Skanly, and Principal Wade Bianco; back row: Just Kings -- Eric Ricks, Victor Thomas, Robert Thurston, Oraid Edwards, Terry Smith, Otis Thomas and Brandon Armstrong.

December 9, 2020 - 12:56pm

The Just Kings Community Organization and Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle are teaming up to make the Just Kings Toy Drive as easy as 1-2-3 to donate.

Adam Miller is offering $30 Gift Certificates for $20.20, and has extended this offer to anyone who wishes to buy one for the Just King’s Toy Drive. Simply stop by the store at 8 Center St. or call (585) 343-0548 and they will be happy to take your order over the phone.  

Adam Miller’s is a hometown favorite, featuring classic and educational toys, activity kits, bicycles, puzzles and the most interesting collection of stocking stuffers around. This charming, old-school toy store comes complete with old wood floors that squeak a bit -- a quaint welcome as you walk through the doors and browse

The Just Kings continue to work and mentor youth in our area, and have held a host of community outreach events and fun activities like their Trunk or Treat Halloween, Thanksgiving Food Drive, Book Bag Giveaway, and neighborhood summer celebrations galore.

You are also welcome to donate gently used toys for newborns to age 12. They will brighten some child's Christmas morning.

The toy drive is underway through Dec. 21.

Toys can be dropped off at Royals Barber Shop, 317 Ellicott St., Batavia.

November 8, 2020 - 2:09pm
posted by Lauren Leone in Just Kings, social justice, batavia, news, notify.

Batavia, New York, residents young and old donned Halloween costumes of all colors, shapes, and sizes at the Trunk or Treat event hosted by Just Kings Social Club, a newly formed racial justice group that advocates for community members of color. Outreach events like Trunk or Treat are part of the organization’s initiative to mobilize for criminal justice reform, a political issue at the forefront of the 2020 election.

Though the group is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter, Just Kings has shown its solidarity with nationwide police reform movements following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Just Kings has organized outreach events like the June 7 “March for Justice” protest in downtown Batavia and Juneteenth “Teach Thy Neighbor” celebration at the YWCA of Genesee County.

Over 400 demonstrators attended the March for Justice, and the organization has received an outpouring of community support on its Facebook page. In addition to large gatherings, Just Kings works with those in need of financial assistance and emotional support on an individual basis. 

“From giving free haircuts and back-to-school bags to selling chicken barbecues to put on things like [Trunk or Treat], the community’s responded, and it’s been awesome,” said Just Kings member Otis Thomas. “They’re enjoying the movement, and we’re going to keep pushing forward and hoping for bigger and better things.”

Eventgoers spoke highly of the grassroots organizing work that Just Kings is doing to bring all Batavia and Genesee County, New York, residents into a cohesive discussion about racial justice.

“Every single member of Just Kings really has their heart put into this,” supporter MaKayla Armstrong said. “They’re really trying to make Batavia a better place, a safe place.”

Vocalizing Underrepresented Concerns About Police Reform

Three Just Kings members are on the City of Batavia Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group, a board of local leaders and residents tasked with reimagining the city’s policing practices. One of the original objectives of Just Kings was to join the board. Group members said it is meaningful to be engaged in dialogue with the Batavia Police Department.

“To be invited, to have a few of our members on that board, was a huge accomplishment for us, not for the clout but for the actual voice that we can have in the community,” Just Kings member Haven Armstrong said.

As one of the first community groups for people of color in Genesee County, which is a predominantly white, conservative region, Just Kings has been spearheading efforts to gain representation for Black and brown residents and confront the racial disparities that exist in local policing policies.

“We felt for years being from here and living here so long that our voice was kind of suppressed,” he said. “Having the members that we know that are out doing the right things or trying to make an actual reform happen … was huge for us and the community.”

Gaining Representation and Reform Through the Vote

Criminal justice reform has also been taking place at the polls. Encouraging voting among its supporters is a component of Just Kings’ work to educate youth and raise awareness of racial inequalities at the local level.

“When it all comes down to it, this is a good place to be,” Just Kings member Oraid Edwards said. “We want to prove that but, at the same time, make changes so that way equality spreads throughout.”

To facilitate those changes, Just Kings has shared voting resources with its supporters so they are informed about how to cast their ballots this election season.

“We believe the local government — your governor and your local things in your city — is what’s really going to matter for us right now,” Thomas said. “… Get out and vote. Push the [police reform] issue. If you’re 18 or over and you have that voice, use it.”

Lauren Leone is a journalism student at Ithaca College, a graduate of Batavia High School, and a former intern for The Batavian. This article originally appeared in Ithaca Week.

Video Sponsor

Bottom video by Howard Owens/The Batavian. The video was runner-up in the Best Multimedia Competition in 2020 sponsored by Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION).

August 18, 2020 - 12:55pm

Just Kings, a newly formed organization dedicated to achieving equality and racial justice in Batavia and Genesee County, today said they plan to submit a letter to Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski to have a representative on the City’s Police Advisory Stakeholder Group.

“We have discussed this at length and have talked to Chief (Shawn) Heubusch about it, and would like to participate,” said Victor Thomas, adding that he has been selected by Just Kings’ 10-member board of directors for consideration by city leaders.

If chosen, the 36-year-old Thomas, a lifelong Batavian, would be one of six citizen members on the committee, which is being formed in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203.

Just Kings was instrumental in conducting a peaceful March for Justice in downtown Batavia on June 7 and held a community Juneteenth celebration at the YWCA on June 20.

They are hosting a drive-through cookout, offering BBQ chicken or pulled pork dinners, this Saturday from noon until sold out at 25 Harvester Ave. The cost is $12.

Thomas said that he is encouraging people of color to submit a letter of interest to fill other slots on the advisory group.

One person of color already appointed to the group is Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr.

"Well, I think I do add some diversity to the group. I'm a Latino, bilingual ... I'm not what the perception would be, another Caucasian male," Soler said. "So I think I will bring some of that diversity, to the credit of the police chief to make sure that I'm on this group -- representing the school district and our kids of color."

Soler said that growing up as a Latino male in the City of Rochester, he carries "some experiences with law enforcement that I've had that hopefully can help the group do its work better."

He shared that people of color -- biracial, Asian, African-American and Latino -- comprise about 25 percent of the student population in the Batavia City School District.

The executive order, “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative,” stipulates that police departments must adopt a plan by April 1 to be eligible for future state funding.

It includes wording that stakeholders should include “but not (be) limited to membership and leadership of the local police force, members of the community with emphasis in areas with high numbers of police and community interactions, interested non-profit and faith-based community groups, local office of the district attorney, local public defender and local elected officials.”

Toward that end, Tabelski issued a press release about an hour ago declaring that the City of Batavia will add four additional community members, increasing the number of residents from two that were on the original list of stakeholders to six.

Tabelski said the city will strive to ensure proper representation for all.

Per the press release, “The advisory group will open dialogue and add value to the relationships between City government employees, the police department and community residents,” Tabelski said. “As we move forward, the stakeholder meetings will be open for the public to attend, while adhering to COVID-19 protocols.”

Heubusch, in the release, said he is looking forward to starting the process and engaging with citizens in the community.

“The City Police Department is comprised of men and women who take the job of protecting and serving our community very seriously,” he said. “We all look forward to working with the stakeholder group to improve our already robust service and training.

“All individuals should be held to the same standard. No one is above the law; whether civilian, law enforcement or government official and those that break the law should be held accountable.”

With this expansion, the Police Advisory Stakeholder Group will now consist of 19 members, including:

  • City Manager;
  • Police Chief;
  • Assistant Police Chief;
  • City Attorney;
  • One City Council member;
  • Six citizen representatives;
  • Batavia Housing Authority Director;
  • Director of a not-for-profit that serves human interests (e.g. YWCA);
  • District Attorney representative;
  • Public Defender representative;
  • Batavia Police Benevolent Association representative;
  • Batavia City School District Superintendent;
  • Community religious leader;
  • Business leader representative.

Furthermore, Tabelski said the stakeholder group will help identify recommendations for more effective strategies, policies, and procedures to better serve all residents within the City of Batavia. This plan will be developed over the fall and winter, and must be adopted by the City of Batavia by April 1 per Executive Order No. 203.

Citizens interested in being a member of the Police Advisory Stakeholder Group should send their name, phone number, address and email address to the office of the Interim City Manager, Rachael Tabelski. Address: City of Batavia, One Batavia City Centre, Batavia, NY 14020 or via email:  [email protected].

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