Posted by: Gordon on 8/28/2015

Legislators look on as Faith Coalition leader speaks about rail improvements in Springfield's black communityLast week Faith Coalition for the Common Good took another step forward in its work to win jobs and keep the city and state accountable as part of a multi-million-dollar upgrade of rail tracks that run through their city’s historic black neighborhood.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation creating a commission that will oversee Springfield’s 10th Street Rail Corridor.

“We are elated  that the voice of the people most impacted by the Springfield rail project has been heard,” said Irma Wallace, co-chair of Faith Coalition’s Rail Task Force.

“This commission will ensure the neighborhoods impacted by this construction will benefit from the jobs and economic development of the project,” said state Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), who sponsored the commission. “The community will have a public, centralized group to prioritize these goals and review their progress.”

Since Faith Coalition first proposed and won agreement from city government and the state for a jobs agreement several years ago, a new mayor has been elected and an archeologist discovered traces of a race riot from the early 20th century on the site where a rail crossing is to be improved.

Throughout, leaders have persevered in calling for work in the community to benefit residents and to use this opportunity to reflect

The bipartisan High-Speed Rail Oversight Commission will be made up of Springfield residents appointed by legislative leaders, the governor, the mayor of Springfield and the Sangamon County state's attorney. At minimum it must meet quarterly and issue an annual report.

Photo: Legislators looked on last June as Faith Coalition leader spoke about rail improvements in Springfield's black community. The group has pushed tirelessly to insure its community benefits agreement is implemented.

Posted by: Gordon on 8/20/2015
Asamblea Bus Tour kickof

Asamblea de Derechos Civiles kicked off its Iowa Freedom Ride yesterday. Carolina Castillo wrote this post from the bus. 

News coverage Friday

Immigration March (KWWL)

Posted by: Gordon on 8/16/2015

Flyer for Asamblea Gamaliel Iowa Freedom Ride
CRI leaders will be in Iowa Thursday through Sunday to advocate for immigrant integration and immigration reform. Details of the planned major events for the Iowa Freedom Ride are below. You can also download flyers for the event in English and Spanish. If you are looking to connect with the group reach them at 651-207-9260 or call the Gamaliel office.
Posted by: Gordon on 8/6/2015

MCU Leaders with Mayor Slay

Leaders from MCU and its student-organizing group Students4Change pushed St. Louis Mayor Slay to give full powers to the new Civilian Oversight Board of Police a week prior to his announcing his candidates to lead the new board. 

Members of Metropolitan Congregations United’s Civilian Oversight Board Team met Mayor Francis Slay in St. Louis last week.

They brought concerns about the structure, power and support of the newly created Civilian Oversight Board for Police oversight board to the meeting and shared their work on ending punitive out-of-school suspensions for young people in St. Louis and surrounding area school districts.

Marday Lee and Le’Asia Sanders represented Students 4 Change, MCU’s student organizing project. They shared their work in ‘Suspending Suspension’ a campaign to end to out-of-school suspension as a punishment. They have gotten St. Louis Public Schools to formulate new rules already as part of this push.

The city’s new Oversight Board – Slay announced candidates to sit on the board in early August -- is meant to provide much-needed oversight of policing but currently possesses only monitoring power. It will have only 7 members to represent 28 city wards. Questions have been raised about whether the board will have the funding it needs to be effective. The proposal is to pay for two investigators and one administrative assistant.

Slay and his chief of staff, Mary Ellen Ponder, affirmed the importance of the Civilian Oversight Board and pledged that in his selection of nominees for the seven board positions he would create as much diversity as possible in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and experience. He emphasized that he would do all he could to ensure the Board of Aldermen approves the Board’s proposed budget.

Slay was more reticent about pushing for more power for the board. He said he wanted to see how it would work as currently organized before pushing for subpoena power and the ability to interview police officers, for example -- which would make the board less reliant on the investigations of the Internal Affairs Department.

The mayor and the team agreed to meet in six months, allowing for the board to begin its work and examine in a meaningful way the changes to be made.

Posted by: Gordon on 8/2/2015
Leaders of WISDOM EXPO and trainers

19 leaders participated in WISDOM's first-ever EXPO training in June.

At the end of June, PhD candidate and WISDOM leader Mark Rice was among the first EXPO 11x15 Fellowship Interns commissioned by the Wisconsin statewide organization.

This week, he was in Washington, D.C. to join a national group of leaders calling on President Obama to ban the box on federal job applications that ask people whether they have a criminal record.

So he was just stating the simple facts when he reflected on his involvement with the organization: “Training helped me develop skills I can use immediately,” he says. 

EXPO – for Ex-Prisoners Organizing – is the name WISDOM’s formerly-incarcerated leaders, who help drive the organization’s criminal justice campaign in Wisconsin, chose for themselves and their work on a constellation of issues to change the narrative around criminal justice in the state and beyond.

“We can have an impact on policies that affect us – especially in places with a large concentration of formerly incarcerated people,” says Rice, who is studying community organizing at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and chairs WISDOM’s revocation task force. "I think EXPO will eventually build enough power to get policymakers to invest less in unnecessarily incarcerating individuals and more in programs that attack the root causes of crime.

Rice has blogged about his own experiences with revocation in a state system that gives probation officers total discretion and little guidance in when to revoke probation and return someone with a prior record to prison.  

Rice adds that highlights of the training week included developing organizing skills, identifying what personal barriers were holding him back, as well as attending a vigil for the victims of the recent killing in Charleston at the Oak Creek Sikh temple that was the site of an August 2012 shooting spree.

“In stories they each told about their path to power during the training, you could clearly see their disempowerment and how it happened,” Angela James, one of the trainers for the group, recalls. “We teach about power and self interest and they clearly understand the self-interest of the system and how it tried to crush their power.”

She is looking forward to a second EXPO training planned for January, because the group is one of the most serious and focused she’s ever worked with: “They don’t have time to play games.”

WISDOM also plans to have an EXPO group within each local WISDOM organization and a statewide EXPO infrastructure, according to WISDOM director David Liners.

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