Posted by: Gordon on 9/30/2014
Ntosake 2014
VOICE-Buffalo hosted this year's Ntosake women's leadership development training last weekend. 

The agitational style of Ntosake training builds community among women participants in a way that Gamaliel’s National Weeklong Training does not, according to Marianne Rathman, who serves on the executive committee of VOICE-Buffalo, which hosted Ntosake last weekend.

Even today, women leaders in community organizations sometimes get asked “who’s watching your kids?’ and similar questions that men never do, according to Susan Sneed, the staff organizer who has coordinated Ntosake in recent years.

“Sometimes what happens is women come to Ntosake defensive about their leadership style just because they have had to defend themselves from men who have belittled them or who have dismissed them from public life,” Sneed said. “At Ntosake they confront that and go home having learned what they need to do to move forward.” The 63 women who attended the event this past weekend all went home with work to do--meetings, goals, and additional steps to take on their own path to power, Sneed said.

The training, created years ago by retired Gamaliel staffer Mary Gonzales and the first woman president of an affiliate years ago, provides women an opportunity to share and learn about their path to power, leadership and public and private roles and other issues amongst themselves.

Karen McGee, the first woman president of New York State United Teachers—one of the most powerful unions in New York state—and Erie County Commissioner of Environment and Planning Maria Whyte were guest speakers at the event. 

The event was partially underwritten this year by the Berger-Marks Foundation. The next Ntosake is tentatively scheduled for January in California, with a 2015 event in the Midwest tentatively planned for next fall. 
Posted by: Olivia Schiller on 9/26/2014
Responding to yesterday’s video apology from Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, Metropolitan Congregations United issued a statement this morning calling on the city of Ferguson to take more active steps toward transparency and to implement the reforms announced at its last council meeting.
Posted by: Gordon on 9/23/2014
Today, a federal policy ensuring access to taxpayer-funded work for all Americans turns 49 years old. Faith leaders in the Gamaliel community-organizing network and its campaign arm Transportation Equity Network plan a series of actions to highlight the fact that, if we want to have something to celebrate when the policy turns 50 next year, the Obama Administration has some serious catching up to do.
Most people know affirmative action as a debate that has raged in courtrooms across the country, but a similar policy applies to a body of regulatory orders and policies that begin with a presidential order by Lyndon Johnson Sept. 24, 1965 under which  the Department of Labor regulates hiring at companies with federal construction contracts for infrastructure and other projects. Prioritized for updating four years ago, those numbers remain stuck in the past. In fact, they were last updated in 1980.
“These numbers are out-of-date by more than three decades,” says Irma Wallace, who is national co-chair of the Gamaliel jobs campaign and a leader with Faith Coalition for the Common Good in Springfield, Ill. “At the same time, our communities have changed:  more women are in the workforce, especially in construction careers, and the minority population has increased.”
In Chicago for example, where people of color made up 19.6 percent of the workforce in 1980, now they make up 30.75 percent (based on 2010 American Community Survey population estimates). In Milwaukee, people of color were 8 percent of the workforce in 1980, but 20.91 percent now. Changes in some communities have been less dramatic—St. Louis went from 14.7 percent to 20.7 percent, for example. But in Springfield, Ill., the share of people of color in the workforce tripled, from 4.5 percent of the workforce to 13.6 percent.

A briefing paper on the impact of the numbers in selected communities and how the numbers were calculated is available here.

Meanwhile, the need for access to these jobs is huge. Women make up only 2.6 percent of construction workers (this is even lower than the goal in the executive order). African Americans continue to be unemployed at rate of 2.2 times their white counterparts; at the end of 2013, average U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, the unemployment rate for white Americans was 5.9 percent, and the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 11.9 percent.

Gamaliel and Transportation Equity Network have long called for increased infrastructure investment across the country, and negotiated dozens of local community benefit agreements to foster hiring and job-training for women and people of color.

Groups that will be taking action on this issue in the next few weeks include Faith Coalition for the Common Good; Gamaliel of Metro Chicago; MICAH in Milwaukee, WI; MORE2 in Kansas City, KS and MO; North Bay Organizing Project in Sonoma, CA, and United Congregations of Metro East in East St. Louis, IL.

Download the backgrounder with updated numbers for select cities
Posted by: kkelsey on 9/18/2014

This piece by Laura Barrett is re-posted from Shelterforce's online newsblog,

Posted by: Gordon on 9/14/2014

Nick Kristof from the New York Times got it exactly right a couple weeks ago: "After Ferguson, race deserves more attention, not less."

Gamaliel affiliate Metropolitan Congregations United of St. Louis is charting a course from now through Easter and Passover to help their interfaith members (white, African-American and multicultural Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Mennonite churches, Jewish synagogues, and others) process what happened in Ferguson.

Through these Sacred Conversations (+Action), MCU will aid participants to air and better understand their own feelings about and experiences with race and racism. and connect their ongoing social justice campaigns to the anger and emotion engendered since August 9.

The organization will also connect these issues to its ongoing work to expand Medicaid in Missouri, so that more low-income people and people of color have access to health care and to build high-quality community schools.

At their Thursday Sept. 11 meeting, 14 people volunteered to pilot these sacred conversations — which are inspired by a yearlong reflection on structural racism and racial justice that organizers in the Gamaliel network actually started in January. Based on this initial work, MCU plans to expand this work to all of its core membership of 33 congregations and beyond. A training of trainers is set for Oct. 18.

Stay tuned for more details! 
Posted by: kkelsey on 9/8/2014
Immigration action in Milwaukee, May 1, 2014 - photo by Light Brigading from flickr
We are angry and disappointed by further delay in fixing our broken laws and policies. 

“It’s impossible to ignore the political calculation behind this delay,” Jesusa Rivera, national chair of the Gamaliel Civil Rights for Immigrants campaign said. “On Friday, President Obama and the Senate Democrats blinked. But this fall, and in elections to come, we will go to the polls with our eyes wide open. We will be waiting for the President to move, and fully expect that when he does announce a reform it will cover all of our 11 million still living in the shadows.”

Over the summer more than 1.3 million Latinos and others attended Gamaliel affiliates' family-oriented Fiesta del Sol events in Chicago and San Diego. Worship services at both events highlighted the contributions of Latinos to our culture, our young dreamers, and how much more work we still need to do for not just Latinos but all immigrants. Gamaliel and its affiliates will continue to ensure all immigrants can get the services they need and serve as advocates to officials from city halls to the White House for policies that support and ultimately normalize all our immigrants’ legal status.
Posted by: Olivia Schiller on 9/3/2014
“We must no longer have short-term demands without long-term strategies,” Rev. Dietra Wise-Baker of Liberation Christian Church, told a reporter for the St. Louis American, St. Louis’ African-American newspaper, at the group’s public meeting last week. “They don’t mind us protesting as long as we’re not organizing.”
Posted by: Gordon on 9/3/2014
WISDOM report release Aug 20
WISDOM is releasing four reports on Wisconsin's prisons as part of a "Reform Now" initiative from July through October. 

WISDOM wants Wisconsin to stop spending $140 million on sending around 4,000 people back to prison due to “technical violations” of their parole.

Wisconsin has the highest rate of black male incarceration in the United States and WISDOM is holding monthly news conferences through October as part of its ongoing campaign to cut in half the number of people in prison by 2015. The news conferences each highlight a prison reform issue  including aging inmates, overcrowding, and solitary confinement.

WISDOM’s latest report on parole revocation can be found here.

The statewide Gamaliel affiliate held a news conference and rally August 20 with 150 faith leaders and prison reform advocates at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility to highlight the problem of parole revocation.

Most parole revocations are not due to former prisoners committing new crimes, but for minor violations: missing curfew, buying a cellphone, or missing a parole meeting, for example. Another common cause of parole revocation is malfunctions of GPS-monitoring ankle bracelets that many parolees wear.

During the rally, Wisdom and faith leaders advocated for a greater number of services and options for parolees to avoid revocation over minor violations.
Posted by: Olivia Schiller on 9/2/2014
LANSING, Over sixty Lansing leaders stood together on August 25th,2014 Where the Lansing City council unanimously voted and approved to adopt a resolution in where children from Central and South America who are fleeing violence would be welcomed to the City of Lansing and encourages those who want to help with resources to do so.

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