Katelyn Oswalt ’24
Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Hannah Dickinson has been involved with numerous social movements in the Geneva area, specifically surrounding the Sixth Ward of the Geneva City Council.
The Sixth Ward of the City of Geneva is located on the Northeast of the city, bordering Seneca Lake. It is described by Dickinson to be “one of the most diverse, one of the most economically disadvantaged, and one of the most historic” areas of the City of Geneva. The Sixth Ward also has a large number of Spanish speakers. Dickinson has lived in the Sixth Ward of Geneva for about two years.
Throughout her time in Geneva, Hannah Dickinson has participated in various social movements. Much of her work has been in conjunction with the Geneva Women’s Assembly, a feminist grassroots organization, and the Geneva branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). Recently, her work has focused on building community in the Sixth Ward, through numerous different projects, including work surrounding the resignation of John Pruett.
Pruett, a Republican, was the Geneva city council representative from the Sixth Ward until late 2021. According to Dickinson, he “ran on the Republican ticket, although identified as Libertarian.” During his tenure, Pruett voted on many progressive reforms, including the Police Review Board and Food Security legislation. Pruett resigned in August 2021, citing job-related stress and health reasons.
For 32 days following the resignation of Pruett, the Sixth Ward was left without representation on the City Council. Many Sixth Ward residents, including Dickinson, pressured the City Council to appoint a new representative for the Council.
The Council decided unanimously on John Salone to replace Pruett in early February 2022. Although Ward 6 is described by Dickinson as, “heavily democratic,” Salone is a Republican. The Council justified their decision on Pruett’s run on the Republican ticket, despite Pruett being self-described as an independent and Libertarian. This decision was made without consulting the residents of the Sixth Ward.
Salone will serve until January 2023. The City Council members all have concurrent terms, meaning an entire new Council is elected at the same time, with the exception of reelected representatives.
While Pruett’s resignation may have been sensational, it does not fully encapsulate the extent of work Dickinson has done for her community. Many neighborhoods in the Sixth Ward were subjected to lead contamination. Dickinson responded to this event by organizing “community meetings, door to door canvassing with petitions and health information.” She also worked to ensure that canvassers were bilingual, as much of the Sixth Ward is Spanish speaking. Other work that she has contributed to organizing within the Sixth Ward includes advocating for greater lake access for the community (the nearest access, despite close geographical location, is the Finger Lakes Welcome Center), the building of a community garden, and the People’s Free Pop Up, a free clothing shop organized by the Geneva Women’s Assembly (GWA).
When asked what she would recommend to students who want to get involved in local politics and social movements, Dickinson provided many examples of work easily accessible for students of HWS. Places students can volunteer include the People’s Free Pop Up and the community garden located in the Sixth Ward. Students could also become a part of the Geneva Women’s Assembly, which meets weekly on Mondays, and engages in community volunteering, as well as the Community for Education and Transformation and Police Review Board.
Dickinson also recommends that students read local news. A news source she recommended, the Geneva Believer, is no longer publishing, but has archival records of events in the greater Geneva community. She also recommended being on the Geneva Women’s Assembly mailing list, which provides information on news and events in Geneva.
For those interested, GWA is holding an International Women’s Day Rally on Saturday, March 12, at 3pm in Bicentennial Park, open for all to attend!