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Annual report 2016


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Read all about the work that the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center carried out in 2016 in our 2016 Annual Report!

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Annual report 2016

  1. 1. 3573 Southern Ave. Memphis,TN 38111 :: 901-725-4990 2016 Annual Report Mid-South Peace and Justice Center’sTraining Program Grassroots OrganizersTraining for Staff Ashley Cadwell :: Operations &Training Coordinator Bennet Foster :: Organizing Coordinator Brad Watkins :: Executive Director Brooke Sarden :: Operations Director Giovanna López ::Training Director Julia Powel :: Program Coordinator Paul Garner :: Organizing Coordinator Tamara Hendrix :: Organizing Coordinator VeronicaVirgen :: Program Coordinator Board Meredith Pace :: Chair • Lani Lester :: Secretary Anthony Sledge Allison Gibbs Lisa Johnson Kat Netzler Chris Martin Laurel Cannito Anna Mullins Coby Smith Jacob Flowers A Word of Thanks We are extremely grateful to our members, volunteers, community partners, donors, and other supporters and collaborators, without whom we would not be able to operate, grow in our work or, accomplish as much as we do. Our Mission The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center’s mission is to engage,organize and mobilize communities to realize social justice through nonviolent action. Our Values The Inherent Power of the Individual - We know the people we work with hold the power to initiate and advance positive change in their communities, and it’s these people who must be the leaders in campaigns to improve their lives. Communities of Liberation - We work to create a world without oppression.We recognize that the roots of oppression run deep systemically and within ourselves. We implement strategies of anti-oppression within every facet of our organizing and within our organization itself. Achieving Nonviolent Solutions Using Nonviolent Strategy -The MSPJC was founded on the nonviolent principles of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We know that the most powerful change can only be brought about using nonviolent means, and we are dedicated to practicing and teaching nonviolent action.
  2. 2. Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (H.O.P.E.) H.O.P.E. is a grassroots fiscal sponsorship of MSPJC. Its membership is made up exclusively of people who have formerly experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness, and organizes to increase city and county funding for vital homeless services, as well as to influence the creation of new affordable housing units; create opportunities for people experiencing homelessness to generate income without being exploited; develop grassroots organizing skills among people experiencing homelessness while providing supportive networking and resources so that they may successfully self-advocate and engage in all parts of community life; and create specific spaces where people experiencing homelessness can provide emotional support to one another. H.O.P.E. has three permanent working groups: Streetwise INK, a completely worker-owned and operated coop- erative for the design,creation,and sale of silk-screened t-shirts;the Women's Caucus,a space exclusively reserved to speak to the distinctive experiences of those who identify as women face while unsheltered; and Garden Crew, which manages a community garden in the Crosstown neighborhood.The garden serves as an outreach tool to con- nect with neighborhood residents, and plans are in the works to expand its operations within this community. 2016 Highlights Published and distributed copies of the updated version of the Memphis Homeless Survival Guide, the city's first user-friendly directory for all home- less services. This guide is now in high demand from agencies that address homelessness. Collaborated with Memphis Center for Independent Living, OUTMemphis, and Memphis Fight for $15 on an action at the Memphis Housing Authority to secure affordable housing for people with disabilities, the LGBTQ commu- nity, low-income applicants, and the homeless.  Partnered with Memphis Feminist Collective (MFC) to gather purses and feminine hygiene products for distribu- tion to women on the streets and in shelters. Sponsored "Shelter Stories," a picnic program that feeds approximately 50-75 homeless men and women per month, and asks them to fill out a survey relating their experiences with shelters in the Memphis area.This data is collected and collated in order to hold shelters accountable to the people they serve. Partnered with MFC to provide special events like spa days and fundraisers for homeless women. Formed an outreach team with Cooperative Memphis in order to facilitate food recovery from University of Memphis Hospitality School and channel it to First Congregational Church, which feeds 50-100 people weekly who are homeless or low-income. Rejoined Memphis Homeless Consortium and attended Emergency Partnership meetings for Community Alliance for the Homeless. Recruited new members, as well as 20 volunteers, to participate in Project Homeless Connect 2016, an annual event which provides access to clothing; hygiene products; dental, medical, social, and housing services; and meals to those experiencing homelessness. Streetwise INK is a collaborative group of homeless and formerly homeless men and women joined together sharing knowledge to create a screen-printing business. Based on the principle of “Teach a Man to Fish,” Streetwise INK helps provide a sustainable income to members while raising awareness of issues surrounding homelessness and providing additional revenues back to the community while empowering partici- pants to break the chains of homelessness. Currently, Streetwise INK has a fiscal sponsorship arrangement with MSPJC and is a project developed and led by members of H.O.P.E. • • • • • • • • Continue next page Memphis Bus Riders Union (MBRU) MBRU is comprised of people dependent on public transportation and their supporters who organize to improve transit services for all Memphians. In Memphis, 90% of bus riders are African-American, primarily women; and 60% have annual incomes of $18,000 or less.Therefore, cuts to bus service disproportionately affect low-income residents and communities of color, as well as people with disabilities, students, workers, and the elderly. MBRU seeks to restore bus service to low-income areas and increase the number of buses in the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) fleet in order to decrease wait times and potentially dangerous bus overcrowding. 2016 Highlights Successfully lobbied Mayor Strickland and Memphis City Council to add $7.5 million to MATA’s budget: $2.5 million for operations and $5 million for the purchase of new buses. Began a new campaign with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 713 (ATU) (which represents over 300 MATA employees) and ATU International to restore the 31 Crosstown, a vital bus route for underserved neighborhoods in North and South Memphis that was cut by MATA in 2013.The cam- paign has received support from over 1,700 petition signatures online and on paper, and was a cover story of The Memphis Flyer. Hosted town halls in South Memphis and New Chicago, where more than 200 neighborhood residents attended to discuss inequitable cuts to bus service with community allies like Fight for $15, United Campus Workers, and Memphis Center for Independent Living. Members and organizers received local and national media coverage  through WREG’s Live at 9, WMC Action News 5, Local Memphis 24, The Memphis Flyer, The Memphis Daily News, Public News Service,English- and Spanish-language radio stations,and Streetsblog USA. Fought privatization efforts in Tennessee through lobbying against the Public-Private Transportation Act of 2016 in the state legislature.         Supported transit activist groups across the state, meeting with orga- nizers of Music City Riders United, a new riders’ advocacy group based in Nashville, and ATU Local 1235, which represents Nashville’s bus drivers. • • • • • •
  3. 3. People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws (PERL) PERL is a grassroots organization led by people who have experienced sexual violence organizing to improve police response to these crimes and hold law enforcement accountable in the process. 2016 Highlights Trauma-informed Care Partnership with CHOICES Evaluated the process of seeking an abortion at CHOICES from the standpoint of an individual with PTSD.   Collaborated with CHOICES to develop training for healthcare service providers to better accommodate patients’ trauma. Peer-Based Advocacy/Support Groups   Facilitated six peer support group meetings with over 20 survivors of sexual violence in the Memphis area. This is the only support group in Memphis targeted towards survivors of sexual violence. Created two private social media groups for individuals to give and receive peer support in order to diversify options available to those seeking support outside of traditional therapy.   Worked with Memphis rape victims whose rape kits went untested by the Memphis Police Department (MPD) to ensure that these individuals understood their rights and options as they sought justice. Police Accountability and Criminal Justice Reform Maintained dialogue with Mayor Jim Strickland to advocate for improved policies, including the public notifica- tion of sex crimes as they happen and provision of adequate staffing of MPD’s sex crimes unit. Partnered with Memphis United to successfully fight efforts to dilute the powers of the Civilian Law Enforce- ment Review Board (CLERB). Attended CLERB meetings to monitor the functioning of the new board.   Designed and distributed hundreds of palm cards listing practical resources for people who experience sexual violence in Memphis. Community Organizing Engaged Interns from Rhodes College and Memphis Theological Seminary to help advocate for improved government responses to rape by attending meetings with Mayor Jim Strickland and other public officials.   Partnered with Her Faith Ministries, Memphis United, and OUTMemphis’ Gen Q program to educate young people about their rights when interacting with police. Partnered with Memphis United to host a workshop for high school seniors focused on issues faced by college students such as campus security and reporting crimes. • • • • • • • • • • • • These partnerships uniquely position Streetwise INK to access promotional support and attract a variety of local orga- nizations and non-profits. Members of the Streetwise INK Co-Op plan on unionizing through the International Work- ers of the World (IWW).This will enable Streetwise INK to reach out to local unions for their silk-screening needs. Additionally, the creative talents of members and reinvestment from wholesale orders allows for the development of a retail revenue stream from member-designed items. 2016 Highlights Assessed current state of Streetwise INK cooperative in order to address issues related to quality and effectiveness. Researched machine maintenance, recalibrated printing press, and purchased infrared flashdryer. Researched business model options. Created machine operations and training manuals. Renters’ Rights Project (RRP) offers training and avenues to legal aid to residents facing issues of access to affordable housing and the living conditions in some Mem- phis area Section 8 apartment complexes.Although subsidized by federal tax dollars,the con- dition of many of these properties is appalling – including structural and water damage to the buildings themselves; infestations of rats, roaches, and bedbugs; exposure to black mold; sewage backup; denial of access to clean water; and myriad safety concerns. Residents who attempt to have these problems addressed often face retaliation, even eviction, by manage- ment. In accordance with MSPJC’s mission to operate in areas where strong organizations do not already exist,RRP works to build capacity and provide a foundation for new organiza- tions made up of and led by those most affected by the issue – the residents themselves. 2016 Highlights Focused attention on Reverend Richard Hamlet, the founder and CEO of Global Ministries Foundation (GMF), which owns and oper- ates some of the properties responsible for the worst offenses in the city, including Tulane Apartments, Warren Apartments, and Serenity Towers. Informed tenants of these properties of their legal rights as renters and trained tenants in the proper way to document their poor living condi- tions. Guided tenants in the process of filing complaints with Housing and Urban Development (HUD), while providing logistical support to those who chose to do so despite fear of retaliation. Helped tenants in Warren Apartments form and maintain a 26-member Tenants’ Association, despite fear of retaliation, in order to bridge the gap between residents and management. Organized a prayer action outside of GMF’s luxurious Stephen Olford Center during a conference held for revival ministers in order to bring attention to the deplorable living conditions of GMF’s taxpayer-subsidized housing com- plexes. Held a protest outside of Serenity Towers regarding the conditions of the property and treatment of its elderly and disabled residents. Called on HUD for increased oversight and more diligent inspections of GMF’s properties. Advocated for the renewal of the Reserve Code Enforcement Officers Program, as Memphis Code Enforcers in Memphis number only 50. Maintained a constant public presence, appearing often in the pages of The Commercial Appeal, The Memphis Daily News, and The Memphis Flyer;on radio programs such as Talk, Memphis;and in interviews with local news channels, as well as on social media. • • • • • • • • • • • • • Continue next page
  4. 4. Grassroots Organizer Training for Power is committed to building our community's capacity through building skills in grassroots organizing, providing support to people doing community work and offering anti-oppression and liberation education. Our method:Direct Education means education that directly confronts and chal- lenges the current system of injustice,which includes traditional education.Direct Education invites the expertise of the people themselves,it’s about liberation and empowerment -- going to the direct source of wisdom: the community itself! G.O.T. Power offers trainings to public and groups with specific training requests. It is an open resource to the community.Trainings and workshops are offered on a deeply discounted sliding scale. Its activities explore ways to be better allies through raising awareness and equipping organizers, facilitators, activ- ists,workers,and volunteers with the tools to do their part.G.O.T Power connects and collaborates with a diverse group of partners, including Rhodes College; The Public Library – CLOUD 901; Texas Christian University; Save the Greensward; Citizens for Overton Park; Just City; Full Spectrum Doulas; CHOICES (Center for Reproductive Health); Nashville Feminist Collective; Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA); Soulsville’s Positive Young Women’s Conference; and Purdue University. 2016 Highlights Oppression Awareness and Liberation Education Workshops Offered a total of four workshops addressing privilege and oppression to doulas, college students, and the public at large. Provided meeting facilitations applying Direct Education for nonprofits. Hosted a Nonviolent Communications Skills Workshop. Offered a Facilitation SkillsWorkshop to youth mentors as well as mem- bers of the public. Community Organizing Skills Training G.O.T Power offered its flagship weekend-long, intensive skills training workshop.This workshop consisted of 14 hours of training in foundational skills needed for effective organizing and was presented in both English and Spanish. Movement Building Training Workshops Hosted Shaping a Just Future during the Gandhi-King Conference. Hosted Intro to Community Organizing for college students consolidating on campus. Hosted Exploring Roles of Social Change for college students. Hosted a weekend-long Community Organizing Skills Training for interns of Justice Reform. Hosted a Non-Violent Direct Action workshop for environmental organizers. Maintained contact with the offices of Congressman Steve Cohen, Councilman Worth Morgan, and Mayor Jim Strickland regarding these issues. In 2016,GMF was investigated by HUD and its funding was revoked due to repeated violations and a failure to prop- erly address them, and its bond rating was lowered twice by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It agreed to sell its Warren and Tulane properties. RRP continues to warn the public, the media, and the government of the repercussions of a “Dry Katrina” should the inevitable relocation of over 300 families from these properties be mishandled, while assisting residents during the relocation process. Mid-South Peace and Justice Center’sTraining Program Grassroots OrganizersTraining for • • • • • • • • • • • Memphis United Memphis United is a coalition of grassroots organizations, community groups, and Memphis residents formed to confront structural and institutional racism. 2016 Highlights Juvenile Justice/Know Your Rights Facilitated over 50 Know Your Rights Theatre workshops with close to 1,000 young people across the Memphis area. Facilitated workshops and created surveys that were conducted with over 750 participants aged 4-19 with the assistance of interns from Rhodes College, Girls, Inc., and Summer Youth Achieve Program. Facilitated “Training for Trainers” on how to conduct interac- tive Know Your Rights Theatre workshops and engage other young people in conversations about interactions with law enforcement. Partnered with People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws (PERL) to host a workshop for high school seniors focused on issues faced by college students, such as campus security and reporting crimes. Worked to foster grassroots networks in order to advance peer to peer youth education and organizing around issues that directly affect young people. Collaborated with Theatre Memphis’ teaching fellowship through Rhodes College, which engaged youth at Central High School and Melrose High School in creative projects around social justice issues. Assisted Red Zone’s Speak Program (a conglomerate of writers, rappers, poets, dancers, and musicians from Melrose High School), to produce a rap song in response to the contents of our Know Your Rights workshop.At the end of the semester, students from both schools held a public performance called “Say It Like It IS” to showcase their work to a packed house! Police Accountability/Criminal Justice Reform Successfully fought efforts to scrap language outlining the subpoena powers of the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB), established in November 2015 after a long campaign led by Memphis United. Using data obtained from open records requests, contacted over 190 individuals in the “CLERB Backlog” supposedly referred to the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board between 2011-2013 – when CLERB did not exist. Followed up with individuals identified in the “CLERB Backlog” to make sure they understood their options and had all of their paperwork from Internal Affairs before moving forward with the CLERB complaint process. Ensured that CLERB complainants received all of their Internal Affairs paperwork, free of charge, at the begin- ning of the process. Argued the first case to be successfully sustained by CLERB since it was reconstituted,sending it back to Inter- nal Affairs with a recommendation in favor of the complainant. • • • • • • • • • • • •