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Posted by: Website Administrator on 7/8/2016
On behalf of the Gamaliel Network, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the families of the five Dallas police officers slain.
Posted by: Gordon on 4/25/2016

“The poor and people of color are being imprisoned in this country at a rate that is not compared to any other country on this planet,” Rev. Willie Brisco, chair of the African-American Leadership Commission, told nearly 100 leaders of the AALC and Gamaliel national clergy caucus at an April gathering.

Brisco along with Pastor Michael Brooks of MORE2 helped lead the charge for the network to take its work to end mass incarceration to a new level.

Opening the event with a look at how we arrived at this moment, Brooks said that after the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, "the faith community went to sleep. It was almost as if we had won enough battles, now everybody can relax. While we were sleeping this verbiage came about, called the War on Drugs.... The reality was it became a war on black and brown communities."

Over the several days convening, participants heard an expert overview on the state of policy advocacy nationally from a Sentencing Project expert. As they shared successes and ongoing work from around Gamaliel, five main approaches to criminal justice work emerged amongst the more than 20 groups from 14 states who were at the AALC gathering:

Education  & School Discipline

Groups like Metropolitan Congregations United are working to address the school to prison pipeline, including a major revision of the St. Louis Public Schools discipline code.

Policing

A half dozen or more organizations are looking at diversity on their police force and rebuilding trust in law enforcement. For many this includes advancing policies to insure officers use body cameras such as Roc-ACTS in Rochester. In Pittsburgh, PIIN leaders have been working with law enforcement for more than a year on a number of issues including cameras, which they are now addressing at the state level, for example.

Courts, sentencing, and treatment instead of prison

Father Joe Ellwanger presented a timeline of WISDOM’s organizing starting more than 20 years ago that led more than 15 years ago to millions of dollars for Wisconsin’s “Treatment Alternatives diversion” program (named by a state legislator) to keep people with mental illness out of prison. Terry Lorenz of WISDOM’s Ex Prisoner Organizing, or EXPO group, shared with the group how she benefited from the unique Alternatives to Incarceration for Mothers, AIM, Court, in Eau Claire. The Ezekiel Project helped create a Drug Court in Saginaw, MI, and Quad Communities Interfaith is working to win a Mental Health Court in Davenport. Other important issues related to courts and sentencing include crimeless revocation of probation.

In prison

A number of groups are also working to reform how people are treated in prison, such as ending solitary confinement for juveniles, advocated by ACT-Syracuse.
Posted by: Gordon on 3/30/2016

PIIN marching at fight for 15 rally
Faith, labor and community leaders celebrated wins in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and California this week as Friedrichs vs. CTA ended in a tie vote, UPMC granted workers a $15 wage, and California announced a plan for statewide minimum wage increase to $15 an hour. (Photo, April 2015 Fight for 15 march, from PIIN)

An entire movement breathed a sigh of relief with the news Tuesday that the Supreme Court members tied in their vote on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. If they’d reversed an earlier court decision, it would have weakened labor and people power throughout the land.

Posted by: Gordon on 3/17/2016
Kansas City Honest Conversation About Race Zion Baptist Church
After meeting within their own congregations and communities for several months, leaders of MORE2 gathered Feb. 29 for a 'Leap into Action' toward building the beloved community envisioned by Civil Rights movements of the past and present. 

More than 600 Kansas-City-area faith and community leaders gathered at the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, MORE2, Honest Conversations on Race: Leap into Action at the end of February.

“All the churches and organizations came together,” said Joi Wickliffe, a leader on the MORE2 Access to Health Task Force and member of Zion Grove Baptist Church. “That was a beautiful thing because it was interfaith…. it wasn’t just black Baptist Churches or black Methodist churches, it was also Jewish synagogues and Unitarians and others.”

Leaders of the group have been making the drive to St. Louis to support the work for racial justice of Gamaliel affiliate Metropolitan Congregations United since Michael Brown was killed in August 2014. Last fall they developed their own process to facilitate discussion about structural racism modeled on MCU’s Sacred Conversations (plus Action).

After training facilitators and holding a kickoff event around Thanksgiving, congregations began a series of meetings and conversations, such as investigating what led to Kanas City's Troost Avenue becoming a racial and community dividing line, all of which led to the Leap Into Action Feb. 29.

During the event participants discussed the racial implications of policy decisions in the city and what drives feelings of oppression and privilege. Organizational task force leaders presented their issues and laid out plans for the coming year and what it will take to create the beloved community in Kansas City.

“Sometimes I think people really don’t see the injustice – they can see the problems but they don’t have words for what’s really causing it,” Wickliffe said. “They see the overt racism – calling somebody a derogatory term – but I don’t think they see the systematic things that happen.”

For example, her task force presented a difference between the health outcomes for an African-American child vs a Caucasian child who live in different zip codes, and in one of the breakouts an African-American described how she and a white woman with similar symptoms had found they experienced different levels of care from the same local hospital.

“That was a good way to get the conversation going… putting those narratives out there and changing the dominant narrative,” Wickliffe said. Shifting narratives or stories that people believe about the way things work can be a difficult process, but is the most effective way to bring about lasting change, she added: “It does feel like the start of something big.”

The event also garnered significant news coverage including from local TV news and online

Posted by: Gordon on 3/9/2016
Leaders processing into public meeting

More than 1,200 leaders marched into Bennett High School auditorium for a public meeting at which Labor Secretary Thomas Perez delivered a keynote on the need for jobs and job training to benefit everyone in the region. (see more pictures


Labor Secretary Thomas Perez summed up the purpose of a public meeting in Buffalo Tuesday in a phrase when he told the crowd that, "Zip code should never determine destiny."

Economic development in the Niagara-Buffalo region is clearly a tale of two cities. But Perez and a half dozen public leaders spoke out with a single voice to support a plan for workforce training advanced by affiliates VOICE-Buffalo and NOAH Tuesday night.

The region has received $5.5 billion in new economic development over the past few years and leaders expect thousands of jobs to come on line in the next couple years, speakers said. But across the region, 37% of African Americans and Hispanics live below the poverty line, compared to 9% for whites.

The jobs are there, VOICE President Pastor James Giles told a crowd of 1,200. For example he noted that in Buffalo the average age of manufacturing workers is 58, so over the next decade or so as many people retire, thousands more jobs will open up.

But, Giles said, “for the African-American urban community, for the Hispanic or refugee communities, for handicapped communities--it has not translated into economic power. What has been missing is the community component.”

Perez, a Buffalo native, had been invited by VOICE leader Paul Vukelic, a longtime friend and local business owner. His presence brought key players together around a plan that is crystallizing to provide soft-skills training and mentorship, add diversity in the construction trades, and provide the region’s sizable refugee community with additional job-training resources.

“This is a group of serial activists, ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Perez told the room as part of a ‘keynote address’ on jobs and the regional economy. "I’ve got unbridled optimism because you have remarkable leadership up hear [on the stage] and the power of we down there [in the auditorium]."

VOICE and NOAH, which together form the regional group Gamaliel of Western New York, are working with Catholic Charities, PUSH-Buffalo, and social service agency Back to Basics on the proposal. It has three parts:

Soft Skills

Recruitment, mentorship and soft skills training are the most difficult yet most essential aspects of successful workforce training and placement. Grassroots community organizations and faith-based partners anchored in the community have the relationships to conduct this work most effectively.

Construction Trades

NOAH has engaged the political leadership of Niagara Falls and construction labor unions in dialogue and negotiations, and established with Dyster a collaborative that includes Niagara trade union leadership. This task force is developing a pipeline for people of color to pursue jobs in the construction trades. This can be expanded later to Buffalo.

Refugee Training

Catholic Charities and Niagara University previously developed and ran a specialized educational training program to help refugee students enter into the hospitality sector of the Buffalo Niagara region. This collaborative can be re-established. Since many of the refugee students who are likely to succeed in the program need additional support before they get to a college readiness program, Catholic Charities would be a major partner and grant administrator to increase their capacity for work readiness and education.

“We talk about physical infrastructure but equally important is our human capital infrastructure,” Perez told the crowd.

Local officials at the public meeting noted their support for the new strategy.

“In some ways these are the best of the times but not none of this means anything to young people who feel they are not sharing in the fruits of the economic development in the region,” Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster told a crowd of more than 1,000.

Dyster pledged to implement a local-hire policy in Niagara Falls, leading the way along with Buffalo’s mayor and Erie County executive. The county will be introducing a “first source” local-hire initiative in the coming weeks.

This event received lots of news coverage, see some of the stories here: 

In Buffalo Visit, U.S. Labor Secretary Joins Push Against Racial Inequality, City & State
Labor Secretary Perez touts economic growth and his Buffalo roots, Buffalo News
U.S. Labor Secretary preaches the power of 'we', WBFO public radio
U.S. Labor Secretary Perez addresses workforce bias in WNY, WIVB TV 4 CBS
US Labor Secretary: inclusive growth matters, Investigative Post
Labor secretary expected for meeting on workforce diversity, AP
Perez on importance of Workforce Development, WGRZ Ch 2 NBC

Posted by: Gordon on 2/26/2016

Leaders stopped traffic in downtown Minneapolis to protest deportations and raids and call for driver's license reforms in Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota, a few of the states represented at the weekend Civil Rights of Immigrants campaign leaders retreat. 

Leaders from seven states and as far away as Georgia gathered in Minnesota to discuss strategy for the coming year, share information on dealing with raids, and renew ties after a year of campaigning the last weekend in February.

The CRI retreat kicked off with an action at the Hennepin County Government Center & Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis.They called for Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to sign an executive order supporting drivers licenses for all. Leaders from other states facing similar issues spoke in solidarity and the group also marched past the federal courthouse nearby, protesting deportation raids by the Obama Administration.

“I would rather be arrested committing civil disobedience standing up for my mom’s rights than for her to get arrested for driving without a license," said Melina Tapia, Columbia Heights, Age 11. "I am making this choice, because this struggle continues until all are free.”

Retreat in Little Falls, MN
CRI Retreat group shot
Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, a longtime ally that recently became a Gamaliel affiliate, hosted the retreat. Emerging and seasoned immigration leaders from Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota attended the retreat, an annual event.

They laid out plans for civic engagement and strengthening their organizations. Jack Hayn of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades joined the group by video to lay out results from an emerging partnership between Gamaliel and IUPAT. Together WISDOM and IUPAT have already helped find several contractors who were stealing wages from employees in Wisconsin, for example.

Attendees at CRI also remembered Training Director John Norton, honoring him with t-shirts and telling stories about his legacy and impact he left on those he trained. 

Posted by: Gordon on 2/22/2016

Some 40,000 people participated in walk-ins on and around Feb. 17 at 838 schools in over 30 cities according to the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools.

“Our children deserve a whole lot better than what they’re getting,” in the words of Rev. Keith L. Whitney, pastor of Sanctuary Fellowship Baptist Church and chair of MOSES’ Education Task Force.

Support for community schools and more accountable charters topped the list of education issues on the agenda for Whitney and other leaders at Gamaliel affiliates in Detroit, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh who participated in last week’s national action. Details about the education issues leaders face in the 3 cities are below:

Pittsburgh

walk in at Langley School in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh may be furthest along toward achieving the vision of the community-school movement thanks to work by the citywide Great Public Schools Pittsburgh coalition, which includes Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network.

The city is currently hiring a new school superintendent. “Commitment to community schools and full-service school initiatives” is in the top 5 requirements, according to the job description.

“Community schools are the way we see to close the opportunity gap between children of different races and economic levels,” says PIIN education committee co-chair Dr. Sandra Woolley. She and other experts say community schools have the following characteristics:

  • Offer curriculum that is engaging, culturally relevant and challenging, with a broad selection of classes and after-school programs
  • Emphasize high-quality teaching over high-stakes testing
  • Provide wrap-around supports such as health care, eye care and social and emotional services to assist learning
  • Stress positive discipline practices such as restorative justice and social and emotional learning supports
  • Prioritize transformational parent and community engagement to allow the full community to participate in planning and decision-making
Posted by: Gordon on 2/4/2016

Gamaliel, Partnership for Working Families, and PolicyLink are partnering around a federal Transportation Department initiative to pilot local-hire policies on federally-funded highway and transit projects. Meanwhile, the idea of tying local development to employment is getting a new look around the country including in Nashville, where Mayor Megan Barry held a news conference Jan. 28 to implement the policy following voters' approval of a charter revision last summer.


In January Gamaliel, Partnership for Working Families, and PolicyLink kicked off a local-hire project that focuses on providing opportunities for jobs and training to people in four communities across the country.

Two Partnership affiliates – Ebase in Oakland and FRESC in Denver – and two affiliates of Gamaliel, Virginia’s Empower Hampton Roads, and MICAH-Milwaukee are part of the local-hire project.

Each will organize a local coalition and develop strategies to insure transportation and transit infrastructure projects help strengthen local economies by hiring workers in the communities where roads and transit are built.

Job creation strategies on the move

The four groups’ work takes advantage of the pilot project Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced last March. About 30 years ago, courts held that local-hire policies could deter competition on infrastructure projects. Foxx created the project to re-examine that premise.

  • Cross-network collaboration is important to target the key places where federally-funded transportation projects eligible for local-hire under the pilot project and assemble the knowhow of groups experienced in creating and implementing local-hire strategies. The 4 projects that are part of the Gamaliel, PWF, and PolicyLink joint project are:
  • In Oakland, CA, Ebase is working to incorporate local-hire strategies into the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District’s $100-million-plus Bus Rapid Transit project.The district set a 50% local-hire goal in September.
  • In the Tidewater region of Virginia, Empower Hampton Roads is working to incorporate local-hire into a road-widening project on a segment of I-64.
  • In Denver, FRESC is working on the I-70 East expansion, a $1.8 billion project in a federally designated Environmental Justice community. 
  • In Milwaukee, MICAH is working on the Milwaukee streetcar project, one of the first to announce it would participate in the federal local hire pilot, estimated to be about a $124  million project. 

Over the coming months each organization will work to build partnerships with unions, contractors, and public and elected officials to build the will and the mechanisms to put local people to work on these construction projects.

Gamaliel, Partnership for Working Families, and PolicyLink will also work with the groups to build a learning community that meets monthly to share successes and strategies around developing local hire.

Interest in local initiatives up in Nashville and elsewhere

Meanwhile, there’s been an increase in interest in local, as opposed to federal, local-hire policies around the country. One of the leaders has been NOAH-Nashville.

NOAH, with support from LIUNA and other partners, advocated a ballot initiative amending the Nashville charter to require 40% local participation in any public-works project costing more than $100,000. The initiative won more support in the August election than anything else on the ballot, including new Mayor Megan Barry.

In the face of intense opposition--several state legislators are attempting to pass legislation that would outlaw local-hire strategies statewide--Barry announced a plan to address some objections in a Jan. 28 news conference. Barry's plan calls for creating a stronger pipeline for trained workers and phasing in penalties for non-compliance with the new policy. NOAH President Pastor Ed Thompson as well as leaders of local unions and contractors groups, stood behind her to support the plan at the news conference.

“When NOAH members came together and decided to organize around the local hire charter referendum, we did so with the sole intent of giving more hope and opportunity to Nashvillians who despite the growth and success of our city were struggling to find a good job and make ends meet,” Thompson said.

Nashville' economic growth is astonishing, with the New York Times naming Nashville "the 'it' city," Thompson and other NOAH leaders have said. "However, in the midst of giant cranes building hotels and condos sprouting like weeds, Nashville's poverty rate increased last year to 19.9%--meaning 1 in 5 Nashvillians lives in poverty.

Gamaliel affiliate ACTS-Syracuse leading a coalition proposing a city local-hire policy that would also target publicly-funded infrastructure projects of $100,000 or more. Faith Coalition for the Common Good, United Congregations of Metro East, Quad Cities Interfaith and other Gamaliel of Illinois groups are in talks with the Illinois Secretary of Transportation about a statewide local-hire policy, and MOSES, in Detroit, is discussed the policy tool with city officials.

More background on local-hire projects, including reports on how and where local –hire is being used, are available from PolicyLink and Partnership for Working Families. The U.S. Department of Transportation has a background page on its local hire pilot project as well.

Local and federal local-hire policies are likely to mesh when the final federal regulations are released later this year. They are expected to let cities and counties with local-hire ordinances use them on federally-funded transportation projects, as well. 

Posted by: Gordon on 1/28/2016
NBOP protest in Sonoma County

Life for the wealthiest is looking rosy in Sonoma County, but skyrocketing rentals on sub-standard apartments, failure to support students, and increasing poverty are also part of the picture there according to a new report by North Bay Organizing Project. Photo by Gerry La Londe-Berg

The news from Sonoma County reads literally like a tale of two cities: airplane traffic is on the rise from Sonoma County airport (which benefited from a $55 million runway lengthening), but the county can't afford to subsidize buses to school for K-12 kids. Unemployment is decreasing, but low-wage jobs are on the rise and salaries are nowhere near matching the increases in the costs to rent a home.

Yesterday the contrasting pictures came to a head as Inside the Doubletree Hotel, the Sonoma County Economic Development Board state of the county address painted a picture of a vibrant economy. Outside, North Bay Organizing Project leaders protested that the county is ignoring families.

North Bay released their own report contrasting the challenges that people in the county face with the rosy picture painted for the 1% in the county. Among their findings:

  • Over a third of Sonoma County families live in poverty
  • Rents in Sonoma County are so high it is now becoming difficult to recruit and retain teachers for local  K-12 schools
  • Almost half (45.9%) of Sonoma County households with children have incomes below the self- sufficiency standard
  • Between 2009 and 2014, poverty increased for both Latinos and Whites; an average of 19.6% of Latinos in Sonoma County live at or below the poverty line, compared to 9.3% of white residents
Posted by: Gordon on 1/26/2016

PIIN Public Safety Task Force
Top, PIIN kicked off its public safety task force campaign "From Marches to Measurables" in February 2015; bottom, Police Chief Cameron McLay reported back at the group's public meeting in November on progress made in restoring police-community trust. 

Leaders of Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, PIIN, began planning their campaign to improve public safety in Pittsburgh more than a year ago.
Posted by: Gordon on 1/11/2016

graphic of shootings from KC Star
Since the Kansas City Star published a report showing Missouri's second largest city has one of the worst per capita records of officer-involved shootings of any city in the country, MORE2 leaders and allies have begun organizing to win police reforms. 


On New Year’s Eve, the Kansas City Star published an investigative report that showed the city had 47 police-involved shootings since 2005, in which 60% of the victims were black.

MORE2 leaders and partners held a news conference the day the article ran in the paper and rallied at police headquarters in favor of police reforms for their city a few days later.

Because reporters had reached out to MORE2 to get a reaction before publishing the results of their investigation, leaders were able to organize and reach out to allies ahead of time. Kansas City police chief Darryl Forte shrugged off any need for change, but the protest is pushing the city’s state-appointed board of Police Commissioners to react.

The city’s Office of Community Complaints “never has examined an officer-involved shooting…it doesn’t have the power,” the Star reported. The information came from the paper’s own in-house data gathered over the years.

“There hasn’t been enough tension created around this,” says Kiku Brooks, a member of MORE2’s executive committee. “For us to be as close as we are Ferguson, that’s shameful to me.”

One of the 47 killed, Ryan Stokes, was a member of Brooks' church, Zion Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Like other cases, testimony in Stokes’ case was contradictory, Brooks recalled. She said that although the officer said Stokes had a gun, no gun was found near the body, and the autopsy suggested he was running away, not toward the police when he was shot.

Brooks said the city has multiple issues to work through. For one, the Office of Community Complaints does not allow anonymous complaints. Also, only victims can file complaints, which means no-one has standing to complain after a victim has been killed by police.

Even more fundamentally, Kansas City is the last city in the nation with a state-appointed board of police commissioners, she said. This relic of Depression-era criminology (St. Louis, another holdout, re-took local control in 2012) means the governor, rather than locally-elected officials appoints the city’s police commissioners. 

MORE2 will continue to mobilize the city, Brooks said--the organization has previously advocated successfully to make it easier for people with felony convictions on their record to get hired and other issues. “By the end of the year, I hope we would be in a place where Kansas City is working toward local control.”

Posted by: Gordon on 12/21/2015



This year, Gamaliel leaders won advances toward community schools, fairer discipline policies and free public transit for students across the country. Our advocacy helped create programs and resources to provide youth and adults with alternatives to prison in New York, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.

More women and people of color will access jobs and training because of our work this year, as the federal government drops barriers like outdated rules on apprenticeship programs and allows some new flexibility for transportation infrastructure project hiring.

In some ways though, our biggest story of the year has been the discernment process of looking into our own organization and work. This led us to a new vision of Gamaliel and our work to build a better world. I invite you to review our year, learn about some of the internal changes we are making, and hear how we will go forward in the attached video.

Together we’ll do great things in 2016.

Yours,

Rev. John Welch, Board Chair
Rev. David Bigsby, chair Council of Presidents
Ana Garcia-Ashley, Executive Director

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