Reflections on the Current Moment and WeROC’s Role

A message from a WeROC organizer, Tad Wysor, of Ypsilanti MI:

“Hello, sisters and brothers…

Late last night, after the phenomenal [Black Lives Matter / Police Task Force meeting at Ypsilanti High School] event that I was able to witness for a couple of hours, Jim Anderson (who gave a powerful personal testimony to the crowd and the public officials) called me, and we found ourselves unpacking a little of all the intense history-making that seems to be swirling around us in real time right now. For what it’s worth, I wanted to share one brief insight that emerged for me out of that conversation.

What was so amazing to me is what happens when power is more balanced, even if for a brief moment. In the YHS auditorium, filled beyond capacity, dozens of people who don’t share my background or privilege felt able to do something very rare, to speak, in public from their hearts and personal experience about how the deep insidious workings of the “dominant narrative” we’re all immersed in, but that people who look like me do much more than our share to maintain and benefit from. Given an opportunity to feel safer and more supported than usual, they were able to express their anger and disgust and frustration, and also wisdom, love, and hope, in a much more public and powerful way than is usually possible.

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Jim Anderson speaks of his experiences at Ypsilanti Black Lives Matter / Police Task Force Meeting, 7/11/16

There was also the widespread expectation that it would all lead to nothing. To me, this was not so much cynicism, but just a sickening fact. Potential wannabe allies like me most of the time go back to our comfortable realities. And whatever brief shift of power toward working people and lower income people and people of color they were able to create then quickly dissipates.

This is huge, and complex, and deeply rooted, I know. But, really, it may not be as complicated as we usually make it, you know. Last night, in just a few hours, people who haven’t had nearly enough voice showed me how quickly they can build a sense of community solidarity and power, and how effectively they can get the serious attention of public decision-makers, if only briefly.

That’s where WeROC and MOSES come in, right? No local organization is better situated right now to help turn this flash of healthy grassroots power into something more long-term. Maybe we need to consider finding the time and leadership and resources for a major, well-designed community organizing training event (or events), where a lot of people personally facing these issues on a daily basis have a rare chance to explore together these issues of how power really works, how to more effectively build it in healthy ways, how to strategically use it, when and how to join with potential allies who aren’t directly affected (like me) — and how to help each other generate and support powerful and savvy new community leaders. And how to make this a long-term enterprise, not just a brief reaction to a horrible moment.

That’s the kind of thing that will be on my mind as I try to listen and learn tonight. To the extent that some of this makes sense to others, I hope we’ll consider some serious conversations soon about some kind of action like this. I’m obviously motivated to do what I can to help it happen, but I’m wide open to suggestions. Our unique WeROC project may be needed right now as much as we ever have been. — Tad

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Pastor Jeff Harrold reflects on structural racism at ICPJ/Faith Leaders Forum rally at Liberty Plaza in Ann Arbor 7/12/16

 

WeRoc Meeting of the Whole – Thurs July 7

What: WeROC July Meeting of the Whole
When: Thursday July 7
Where: Ekklesia Fellowship Ministries, 123 N Adams, Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Parking: Please park on the street, in the city lot across the street, or at First Congregational UCC up the block.
Light dinner provided.

Engage with other smart, committed, caring folks as we consider moving in these areas…

  • Support for a strong Washtenaw vote in November for a solid Regional Transit Master Plan — jobs for our area, and sensible transit at last between Ann Arbor, Ypsi, and Detroit and the region,
  • Update from the planning team considering new WeROC initiatives to dismantle structural racism and the “dominant narrative” about race that is all around us,
  • Continued work to support young people in our area who are making their voice heard on restorative practices and reducing unnecessary suspensions and expulsions — all a part of resisting the ugly attacks on our public schools, with their racial connotations,
  • Backing up our labor and student friends at EMU as they creatively show that privatization is no way for our public institutions to go — especially at a time when we need to build up working people and young people in our area, not participate in a dangerous race to the bottom,
  • Teaming up with small businesses for economic justice efforts like Earned Paid Sick Time,

PLUS…

  • We’ll learn more about new resources for using the current political season as a way to build — not just for education during the elections, but to be a growing factor AFTER the voting is over.
  • We expect to vote to approve the much-discussed WeROC Bylaws.
  • We’ll find out more about the Gamaliel Network National Leadership Training this summer that several WeROC leaders already have under their belt.  Interested?  Let us know…

Oppose EMU Privatization of Food Services

The press release below explains the impressive case that EMU students, union employees, and other allies are making that there is no need for this rush to privatize food services at EMU, especially without a chance for the Administration to work with all concerned. Please sign the on-line petition, and if you can, come to the
Press Conference at 5 pm today Tuesday 6/14 at the EMU Library, Halle Auditorium.

And for the future…

Please plan to join us for our July “First Thursday” WeROC Meeting of the Whole, Thurs July 7, 5:30-7:15, at Ekklesia Fellowship Ministries, 123 N Adams in Ypsilanti. The leaders of our Action Teams will have updates on their grassroots work to build our collective voice for a more just Washtenaw.

News from EMU All Union Council

Media advisory — For immediate release, June 14, 2016
Contact:  Roger Kerson, rkerson@gmail.com734.645.0535

Students, Workers Say EMU Must Delay Decision to Outsource Dining Services
Likely new vendor, Chartwells, has served “mold, human hair and insects” to high school students;
Online Petition and Open Letter To Regents Call for Open Process, University-Wide Consultation

 Ypsilanti – Students and workers from Eastern Michigan University called today for a one-year delay before any decision to outsource EMU Dining Services to a private contractor.

An online petition at MoveOn.org, which has already drawn hundreds of supporters, and an open letter to EMU regents call for “students, faculty, workers and their unions” to be consulted before any decision is made.

“When the majority of student stakeholders are absent from the table, then we are on the menu,” said Steve Kwasny, a student majoring in history and political science at EMU. “We eat this food. I strongly believe students should be considered before a major change in food services.”

At a media briefing on the EMU campus, union representatives questioned the apparently hasty bidding process for Dining Services, which provides services to thousands of students, faculty, workers and visitors.

On April 25th of this year a request for proposals (RFP) for food services was released by EMU’s Director of Purchasing at 4:23 pm, requiring an RSVP to a “MANDATORY” meeting the next day just 37 minutes later at 5 pm.

“What’s the big rush?” said Jason Crispell, president of AFSCME Local 3866, the union representing food service and maintenance workers at EMU.  “There are millions of public dollars at stake here, as well as the health and well-being of thousands of students – and the jobs of our members.”

“What we’re saying is, this is a big decision,” said Crispell. “Let’s take some time and get it right.”

Up to 70 current EMU employees could lose their jobs if Dining Services is outsourced to a private contractor. The likely new vendor for food services at EMU is Chartwells, a subsidiary of a British firm called The Compass Group.

According to The Washington Post, students at a Connecticut high school served by Chartwells report “food that sometimes features mold, human hair, dangerously undercooked meats, insects and portion sizes fit for a small, starving child.”

“We’ve already seen the disasters that can happen when food service is privatized in Michigan,” said Howard Bunsis, a professor of accounting at EMU’s school of business and treasurer of the EMU-AAUP faculty union. “The private company that was hired in Michigan prisons prepared food that was contaminated with maggots. Let’s not make the same mistake with our students.”

The Michigan Department of Corrections terminated its contract with Aramark, Inc. after maggots were found in food preparation areas and 90 employees were dismissed for offenses including smuggling drugs into prisons, having sex with inmates, and participating in an alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Comments from petition signers who support a “a fair and inclusive process” before outsourcing EMU Dining Services include the following:

“There are rarely any real benefits to privatization. There are several other industries you can turn to for examples (child welfare, prisons, etc), and in almost every time the results are not positive.”

“As a faculty member and mother of 4 students at EMU, I think the current quality of dining services is excellent.”

“Privatizing always ends in poor service with devastating results for workers, usually with little in cost savings.”

“Having worked at multiple Universities and Colleges, I can only say that when dining services are privatized, the quality of food and service hit tremendous lows, while the increase in cost is outrageous. Please do not do this. It will send your tuition (board) higher and cause students who cannot afford it to eat off-campus even if they have a board plan.”

“Privatization has a track record of degrading working environments, service and quality.”

###

The EMU All Union Council includes unions representing tenure and nontenure-track faculty, food service and maintenance workers and clerical employees at EMU.  Member unions include EMU-AAUP, the EMU Federation of Teachers Local 9102, AFSCME Local 3866, and UAW Locals 1975 and 1976.

Next WeROC Meeting and Upcoming Events

Three items we hope you’ll consider…more details are just below:

  1. WeROC “First Thursday” Meeting of the Whole: Thursday June 2, 5:30-6:30, Brown Chapel AME, 1043 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti
  2. Faith Leaders Forum: Public Meeting on Policing and Racial Justice: 7:00 pm, also at Brown Chapel AME
  3. Call for Potential Local Small Business Contacts

Tempted? Here’s a little more to whet your appetite for some solid social justice organizing work with your fellow residents…

  1. This month’s WeROC meeting will be short but sweet…your chance to catch up with and consider participating with WeROC’s action teams:
  2. Be a part of building serious, strategic people-powered campaigns designed to win real local policy improvement for all of us in the region, especially lower income families — fewer school expulsions, paid sick time, strong regional transit, criminal justice system.
    We’ll review the final draft bylaws to take WeROC one more step toward a powerful, permanent structure.

    What: WeROC “First Thursday” Meeting of the Whole:
    When:Thursday June 2, 5:30-6:30 PM,
    Where: Brown Chapel AME, 1043 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti

  3. We’ll adjourn WeROC a little early, and hope all will stick around for this second major public meeting of the new Faith Leaders Forum, also at Brown Chapel. FLF is a group of Washtenaw County faith leaders who have come together to proactively address the issue of police and community interactions. As we know in WeROC, a large united room of community people is what impresses public officials, in this case including representatives from the Sheriff’s Dept and area police departments.
    What:Faith Leaders Forum: Public Meeting on Policing and Racial Justice
    When: Thursday June 2, 7:00 pm,
    Where: Brown Chapel AME, 1043 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti

    3) One more thing — We need YOUR Suggestions! WeROC is honored to have received a generous grant to continue building connections between our congregations and organizations, and local small business owners. We need you to help us target small businesses that you think might be willing to get behind the Earned Paid Sick Time campaign.

    The statewide campaign decided we didn’t quite have the numbers to get on the ballot this fall, and decided to reserve the resources for the next fight. (But please turn in any signatures you have.)
    Disappointing, but it’s far from over. While the coalition decides on how and when to “re-boot” in an even stronger position, we can continue to spread the word about the campaign (basically, 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 worked, full or part time). An extremely important idea, whose time is coming soon!
    WeROC leaders have committed to identifying 15 local businesses who will allow their name to be associated with the campaign. We have great materials for helping businesses realize that this is very much a pro-business idea. WE NEED YOUR HELP in suggesting business that you know or patronize that we might approach.
    Pass your suggestions on to Tad Wysor. We’re on the way, help us put our goal over the top this summer!

Faith Leaders Forum 5/23 and 6/2

Faith Leaders Forum, a group of Washtenaw County faith leaders who have come together to proactively address the issue of police and community interactions, will host two public forums to build community support and understanding of this issue.
Forum #1:
7 PM Monday May 23rd
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor,
2275 Platt Rd, AA 48104,

Forum #2:
7 PM, Thursday June 2nd
Brown Chapel AME Church,
1043 W. Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti MI 48198.

After a number of nation-wide, high profile cases of excessive, and even deadly, force used by police officers against unarmed civilians (especially people of color), local faith leaders began to meet last July to discuss how best to address cases of excessive force in Washtenaw County. Those meetings led to the development of Faith Leaders Forum (FLF) and their Statement on Policing and Racial Justice (attached), endorsed by more than 50 leaders of local churches and synagogues.

According to the FLF Purpose Statement: Our mission is to establish a county wide, interfaith advocacy effort with a faith-inspired platform that fosters mutual respect and effectiveness as we mobilize and speak up for justice and equality. We will work together in a manner that reflects our faith in the God of peace and justice; we commit to the following:

  • We will speak and act with respect, compassion and acceptance;
  • We will use actions and words that will both facilitate understanding and resist violence and oppression;
  • We will not use or instigate violence of any kind against any person or group, and
  • We will promote safety and respect for life through our actions and interactions.

While communities of color have been raising these issues for years, it wasn’t until the public was able to see one incident after another captured on video that people felt the urgency to act. Law enforcement is a difficult and potentially dangerous task, particularly in a society that has extreme racial and economic disparities. FLF is concerned for both law enforcement officers and civilians and believes that developing life-affirming practices and guidelines will do the most to promote the wellbeing of all.

According to Rev.Jeffery Harrold, Pastor of New Beginnings Community Church of Washtenaw County/ located in Pittsfield Township, “What motivated us to begin this process was our understanding that as faith leaders God calls us to take a stand against injustice and to defend the cause of those who are victims of oppression. The repeated revelations of the killing of and use of force against people of color led us to organize in order to make sure that protocols, practices, and procedures are in place in our county police agencies to insure that the rights and lives of civilians are protected and respected.”

To quote Pastor Denese Brown of Faith Assembly Church in Ypsilanti, “As faith leaders, we believe that life should be valued, affirmed and protected. And it’s our duty to participate in defending the rights of civilians to live free from the fear of and implicit bias by our criminal justice system.”

Participants in the forums include representatives of local law enforcement agencies, community and faith leaders. The forums are open to the public.

For more information, contact:
Rev. Jeffrey Harrold
revharrold@gmail.com

WeROC April 2016 Meeting and Call to Action

WeROC Meeting of the Whole,
Thursday April 7, 5:30-7:15 pm,
First Congregational UCC,
218 N. Adams in Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Next Thursday, we’ll spend most of the time breaking into the Action Teams; the Team Chairs are planning agendas to move ideas that have followed the big Public Meeting last November into the kind of grassroots action that is WeROC’s trademark.

Action Opportunity: Call your State Representative to support major education bill

On Tuesday March 22,  the Michigan Senate took a huge step forward for Detroit students – DPS, EAA, and charter – and families when they passed SB 711 and 710. These bills include:

1. An elected, empowered DPS school board by August
2. The state will pay the DPS debt ($515M) and provide $200M to stabilize the system
3. The creation of a new public, citywide entity, the Detroit Education Commission, to coordinate charters and DPS for the good of neighborhoods and families
4. EAA schools return to DPS.

Please call your State Legislator as soon as possible. These calls are quick and easy, and because people are calling at the same time, your impact is multiplied.  Read below what the decent bill that the Senate passed says, and then call your representative (find their number here).  When you call, just follow the script below:

1) I am a resident of your district (and a parent / student / teacher if applicable)
2) I urge the representative to stand with Detroit students by voting YES on the “Return to Excellence” Detroit schools package, House Bills 710 and 711, exactly as it passed through the Senate!
3) Thank you in advance.

If you have any question, contact Tad Wysor at tadwysor@gmail.com.

WeROC Monthly Meeting – March Special Edition

We are devoting our “First Thursday” WeROC Meeting of the Whole to planning a major local community organizing training event in March, as described below.

The open planning meeting will be Thursday, March 3 2016, 5:30-7:15 PM, at Beth Israel Congregation, 2000 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 . (The building is to the left side of the main building). Light dinner provided.

A lot of WeROC folks have been eager for us to have an organizing and leadership training here in Washtenaw for some time, especially to build on the momentum of our very successful Public Meeting, held last November. Please make a special effort to come to this one, and be prepared to make and hear suggestions about how we best use our time and the time of participants to build the broad-based power of WeROC and the effectiveness of our leaders.

Our training is in part a continuation of a major event being organized by our friends at Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice. WeROC proposed, and ICPJ accepted, a proposal for WeROC leaders to do a workshop at the March 6 event — “Connect and Act Summit: Building the New Movement for Economic and Racial Justice.” It will be held March 6, 2016 at 1:00 PM at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor. See all the details here: .

Be sure and mark your calendars for the WeROC Community Organizing Training, Thursday evening, 6:00-8:30 pm, March 17, at Faith Assembly Church, 377 S. Harris, Ypsilanti, 48198. More details will be coming soon!

At the March 3 planning meeting, we’ll also have very brief updates on our current and emerging Action Team work.

WeROC Meeting of the Whole Thursday 2-4-16

This month’s WeROC Meeting of the Whole is at 5:30-7:15 pm this Thursday, Feb 4, at Strong Tower Ministries, 134 Spencer Ln, Ypsilanti Twp (Annex building at south end of lot, near Michigan Av).  Light dinner provided.

Your input is especially needed and welcome as our congregations, unions, organizations, as well as individuals, work together to keep building our momentum, our numbers, our grassroots power, and our smarts in ways rarely seen before our County.  We’ll be leveraging our big successes from the Public Meeting in November in several areas:

  • Updates on WeROC Action Team work on local school suspensions, earned sick time, “ban the box,” regional transit, and mass incarceration/deportation.  The Action Teams are where things actually happen; plan your time for you (and others from your organization) to participate in one or more team!
  • Launching a new phase of WeROC by completing bylaws that capture our unique organization and community organizing approach, including how existing and new congregations/organizations can be more effective together.
  • Exploring how upcoming local WeROC organizing and leadership training sessions can make the most of our busy supporters’ time while moving WeROCs agenda forward in powerful ways that strengthen our member congregations/organizations and WeROC as a whole..

Questions?  Tad Wysor, Volunteer WeROC Organizer, 734 883 3225, tadwysor@gmail.com.

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