It was a rainy afternoon April 22, but that didn’t stop local residents along with Stony Brook University students and faculty members from participating in a March for Science rally at the school. Similar marches took place across the country as Americans joined together to show their support for federal funding for science, as well as to remind President Donald Trump (R) and his appointees how important science is, especially when it comes to researching climate change issues.
Pamela Block, of Setauket, and professor of disabilities studies at Stony Brook University, organized the march with Jenn Solomon, a bilingual speech language pathologist. During a phone interview, Block said approximately 500 people participated, and the marchers ranged in age from young children to senior citizens. Block said the organizations Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the Audubon Society, the United University Professions and others had representatives on hand.
Block said she and Solomon were talking to a group of local activists including Shoshanna Hershkowitz of Suffolk Progressives and Cindy Morris of Time2Care Long Island, when they decided to organize the April 22 march.
“This is my first time really doing this kind of activist organizing,” Block said. “It feels pretty good.”
The Setauket resident said because she lives in the area and works at the university, the event was a personal one for her. Her mission was to focus on the important part the university plays in the community, as well as in the world of science.
“It was awesome to see the strong turnout, and to be surrounded by thoughtful people who care deeply about the environment and understand the importance of science for our survival and our humanity.”
— Jenn Solomon
“It was a circle of support for Stony Brook in gratitude for the work that it does in the areas of science — medical science, engineering science, environmental science, physics,” she said. “It does some really important work, and I wanted to acknowledge that.”
Solomon credited Block with leading the effort, but like Block, she was excited to be part of the event.
“It was awesome to see the strong turnout, and to be surrounded by thoughtful people who care deeply about the environment and understand the importance of science for our survival and our humanity,” Solomon said.
Morris, who lives in Stony Brook, said a coalition of community groups joined forces a few months ago to reach out in progressive ways to U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) regarding various issues, and the groups have been planning local events to raise awareness about other current issues.
“This march in particular, we felt at the national level we were seeing the March for Science, but we needed to make sure there was accessibility so local people could also participate without going all the way into New York City or all the way to Washington D.C.,” Morris said.
She said it felt great to take part in the rally, and noted the attendees were different from those who normally come out to protest at similar rallies.
“There were enormous numbers of families who were there to talk about clean water and clean air,” she said. “It was a community that really had the opportunity to speak knowledgeably about this issue, and from that perspective, it was empowering to be among people who really understand the importance and really take it to heart.”
Block said rally participants contributed in many ways, even if they were unable to walk the three-mile route along the Circle Road bike path at the university. Many set up stations to cheer marchers on or were available to drive if anyone fell behind in the marching due to physical demands or having children with them.
“As Stony Brook faculty and a Three Village resident, I am proud of how our community is standing up for science.”
— Shoshanna Hershkowitz
Hershkowitz was just one of the participants who attended the march with her family, which includes her four children.
“As Stony Brook faculty and a Three Village resident, I am proud of how our community is standing up for science,” Hershkowitz said. “Given that our area is a major research hub between Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Lab, we’re in a unique position to speak to this issue. I attended with my children and with another family, because I think it’s important that my kids see activism modeled, and that they know it is part of our duty as citizens to speak truth to power. While bringing kids to events like these isn’t easy, it’s an important lesson that I want to impress upon my kids as a parent.”
Genna Tudda, who has advanced degrees in the sciences and is a 2012 graduate of SBU, said the march hit home for her. While she originally was planning to attend the New York City march, she said, as a Long Island native, it was important for her to show “that people out in the suburbs care just as much about these issues as people in larger cities.”
“Scientific research and environmental issues seem to have been put on the back burner in this new administration,” Tudda said. “Seeing this many people show up to a local event was extremely empowering. I feel hopeful that with these numbers it may be possible to persuade our politicians in the right direction.”