Dear Speaker Johnson,
If you don’t know my name, I’m Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green. I’m the Senior Pastor at Mount Neboh Baptist Church. I was sincerely looking forward to an opportunity to express my position on this discriminatory fur ban proposal, but when it came time for public testimony, you were nowhere to be seen.
Apparently, my time isn’t as valuable as your time, so I’ve provided my testimony below.
Testimony Of Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green Before The Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing
May 15, 2019
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to testify before the committee regarding my opposition to the proposed ban on the sale of fur apparel, Intro 1476. My name is Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green and I am the Senior Pastor at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem. I am also the President of Mobilizing Preachers and Communities (or “MPAC”), which is a non-profit civil right and faith-based organization with a membership of over 300 churches through the New York and tri-state area. I co-founded MPAC because I felt that the church needed to take a more active role in the life of the community to ensure justice and equality for all people. It is these concerns that bring me here today.
I find it troubling that activists and leaders such as yourselves would try to take away our right, here in New York City, to choose what we can and cannot buy. While citizens here in our diverse and urban city, largely populated by minorities, are being stripped of their right to purchase what they choose.
People have the right to choose not to wear fur, but fur opponents do not have the right to determine how we reward our hard work. Americans believe in freedom, choice and prosperity. We believe that with hard work and opportunity, you will be rewarded. For our community, that has struggled for centuries to achieve equality and freedom in this country, to be now told what we can and cannot purchase is an insult. Everyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs whether it be culture, religion or custom, but opponents to fur are not entitled to encroach on the rights of others who disagree.
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Opponents of fur do not understand its importance in the black community. They do not understand that we have a long history of wearing furs passed down through our families for generations. They do not understand the role of fur as a symbol of achievement in society for our disadvantaged group. Our ability to wear fur historically has been a sign that we have finally become a part of New York society, something we were prevented from being a part of for hundreds of years.
A ban on fur is a ban on black culture. For us, this is a pattern throughout history, of Blacks being told what rights they can and cannot have by the White majority. We cannot and will not stand for this injustice and this discrimination.
A fur ban will not only negatively impact the Black community—it will have devastating economic impacts for the historic fur industry and the City’s entire fashion economy. This will destroy one of the last small business-run industries in our city. Shouldn’t we be protecting these workers who rely on the industry to make money to feed their families? Shouldn’t we be preserving small businesses instead of destroying them?
New York City would lose 7,500 jobs and 150 business would be forced to shut down if we ban the sale of fur. These are small, family businesses that are being forced to shutter their storefronts that have been around for generations without a fair say. A fur ban would be another way for the City to rapidly gentrify—taking jobs away from 1st and 2nd generation Americans whose parents and grandparents came to this country and worked hard to provide for their families. This will destroy small business, most of them minority-owned, ignoring the cries of our people.
In my community, on our finest days at church, those who have minks wear them. It is a part of the American dream. Let’s prioritize what matters to our communities, instead of wasting time on issues that don’t serve the people.
Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green
Update: Love and Hip Hop’ star Safaree Samuels released the following Testimony on New York City’s Proposed Fur Ban. “I care about black lives, when y’all start caring about black lives being killed and wrongfully arrested, then we can talk about black minks,” said Safaree Samuels.