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Our Leaders

Metro IAF leaders are people who want to change the world -- from what it is to what it could be.

City & State NY  Recognizes EBC Leader Rev. David Brawley as Champion of Affordable Housing in East New York

"In many ways, Brawley and East Brooklyn Congregations have filled a leadership vacuum in the community that would normally fall to local elected leaders.

The results they have delivered for East Brooklyn are undeniable: construction of 3,187 ultra-affordable “Nehemiah homes” and over 1,500 apartments, including an 80-unit senior living facility; the establishment of several quality charter schools; a national campaign to persuade gun manufacturers to responsibly distribute guns; a massive push for the city to repair thousands of public housing units; and dozens of other quality-of-life accomplishments, including street repairs and clean grocery stores.

You won’t find Brawley grandstanding on the steps of City Hall or taking gratuitous shots at the mayor in a show of political strength. Brawley’s philosophy is to carefully research the issues at hand, come up with pragmatic solutions and, in kind, he expects a genuine dialogue and commitment for tangible improvements from his counterparts."

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Community Purchasing Alliance Welcomes New Regional Director: Jessica Johnson

The Community Purchasing Alliance is an IAF affiliate working to ease the pain of non-profit facilities management across DC, Maryland, and Virginia. This month CPA Co-op would like to highlight a leader from within our organization, our new Regional Director: Jessica Johnson. Jessica brings with her 13 years of management, sales, and contracting experience in the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors. Already Jessica has put her skills and experience to good use, bringing in 20 new participants and building out a new paving program to add to our growing list of program areas. The fact that our co-op is in the position to hire a professional of Jessica's caliber is indication enough that our model is working, and that we can build meaningful financial power among the institutions that are already organized within the IAF. Best of all, CPA Co-op is committed to reinvesting 60% of our profits directly back into the IAF. (Last year this was $36,000 and this year we expect it to be more than $60,000). You can read more about CPA Co-ops roots in community organizing here. With excellent team members like Jessica onboard, CPA's growth is indicative of the kind of success we can expect from this new fundraising model for organizing. 

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Barbara Kraft: From Union Household to Labor Lawyer, a Fighter for Living Wage Jobs

Barbara Kraft is a member of Washington Interfaith Network’s (WIN) Strategy Team and chair of the Social Action Committee at Temple Sinai. Barbara grew up in the industrial Midwest cities of Cleveland and Detroit in a proud union household. Barbara is keenly aware of how union jobs provided stability for her family and community.

“There is a self-respect and sense of identity and self-worth that one derives from work that is meaningful and that supports one’s family.”

Barbara’s passion for living wage jobs led her to a career as a labor lawyer and then to begin volunteering with WIN to help drive WIN’s DC Water Jobs Campaign. In 2015 that campaign led to a historic agreement where DC Water committed to a goal that 51% of its new hires will be DC residents. DC Water will also open training programs to teach DC residents Skills that DC Water needs in its hires -- green infrastructure, commercial driver’s license (CDL) training, and other related skills.

In her spare time, Barbara enjoys life with her labor lawyer husband Peter, studies drawing and painting at the Washington Studio School where she currently serves as president of the board of directors, relishes her piano, and visits her rock-climbing son in Tucson and daughter who is part of a rock band in Brooklyn. WIN is grateful that Barbara is bringing her talent and passion to our Strategy Team and Jobs Team.

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Celebrating Organizer Leo Penta, “A Prophet of the Possible” 

DICO held an action for Leo Penta in Berlin to celebrate his retirement from The Catholic University of Berlin. Leo remains the Director of DICO and will remain the key organizer in DICO's effort to develop 75 acres in the eastern part of Berlin. Below are the remarks of Jonathan Lange at the action.

Remarks at July 7, DICO Action:

Thirty-seven years ago, a young priest in New York decided that meaningful ministry in the then-devastated and neglected communities of East Brooklyn required -- demanded! -- a new kind of engagement.  Leo met two IAF organizers -- then-director Ed Chambers and Mike Gecan. Together with other key lay and clergy leaders, they organized a powerful Burger Platform in Brooklyn, EBC. In time, EBC, Leo and the Brooklyn leaders completely re-constructed the abandoned and under-used blocks of that area with thousands of homes for working families.  The value of those 4,000 homes and 2,000 apartments -- now equity and value retained by the African American and Hispanic buyers -- exceeds two billion dollars.

They are still building today -- on a large site called Spring Creek -- which bore, before EBC's efforts, a stunning resemblance to the land we are gathered on this evening.  It was enormous, neglected, underused.  There, like here, it took vision to imagine a whole new community of thriving individuals and families, which is emerging as we speak.

Everywhere Leo Penta has lived and worked since his Brooklyn days, he has been an evangelist of engagement and power -- a prophet of the possible. He continued to define his calling in broad and creative terms.  All of us have benefited from that.

When I needed help 25 years ago to root the Baltimore "Living Wage" campaign in the language, tradition and theology of the church, it was Leo who taught me how to do that.  When Berlin's Catholic University needed to get outside of its walls to fully teach its students, again it was Leo. And when the IAF needed to prove to itself and others that organizing universals were indeed universal, Leo proved that by introducing Community Organizing to the European Continent..

Now they tell us he is retiring, but we don't believe it. Perhaps the University has a mandatory retirement age of 65, but we don't. And Leo has so much more to do. We are so proud of our IAF brother Leo and look forward to many more years from him of practicing and teaching the art of organizing.

I personally look forward to the first ground breaking and the first house warming here on this land.  Whether one is formally religious or not, it is clear that there is a spiritual dimension -- a movement of the human spirit -- in this work.  And no person embodies that spirit more than Leo Penta.

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