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Fri Jun 5, 2020

Metro IAF Statement on Police Killing of George Floyd -Metro IAF

June 5, 2020

The last minutes of George Floyd’s life evoke the 22nd Psalm:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
And are so far from my cry
And from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime but you do not answer;
By night as well, but I find no rest.


So, too, do our thoughts go to our own memories of Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray--sons of our cities: New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore--black men murdered by police brutally, callously. Our anger and rage rise again.

The white officers’ knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while he pleads for his mother evokes 400 years of kidnappings, lynchings, rapes, family separations, slavery and forced labor, share cropping, equity stripping, unjust imprisonment, medical experiments, job discrimination that denies the humanity and full citizenship of black Americans.

As we watch protesters in Minneapolis and other cities across the country, we know their lamentations must be shouted, must be heard, must not be silenced. For it is only in giving voice to the pain and suffering of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and the thousands of other black people killed in our cities and millions scarred by racism that we might ever begin to imagine a new future.

The shouts must be louder, broader and much longer before this can come to pass though. And we must listen; we must take account. We must relate to the many people who are suffering. In so doing, we must ask: How is God speaking in the streets? What new message, what good news do we hear?

We hear the anger at a criminal justice system that is racist, unfair and out of control especially in relationship to the African American community. It's Floyd today but who tomorrow? It was Christian Cooper one week, who will it be next week? We hear young people fed up with what they see as the inaction of the generations just ahead of them. We hear young people gripped by despair, filled with anger and not seeing any way to take that pain public except by going to the streets.

What we hear is political leaders, law enforcement leaders, religious leaders, and corporate leaders have failed on so many levels to stop police officers from killing black people. Police killings of black people, police intimidation of black people while driving, when shopping, while living must end, now. The next generation in the streets is demanding systemic change in police accountability and policing.

As our cities are in turmoil, we pray for peace. We want to channel ours’ and others’ rage and anger to make these and other changes, to create new realities. In a moment that appears hopeless and despairing to many, we renew our call to organize for justice---as we did in Cleveland to win a US Department of Justice consent decree to reform the Cleveland police in the aftermath of the Tamir Rice murder, and as we are doing in Baltimore to win living wage jobs for 850 returning citizens at John Hopkins Health System and other anchor institution employers, and as we have done to win statewide criminal justice reform in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Virginia. The job is not done. We are dedicated to building more power to purge injustice from the system from the ground-up no matter how long it takes.

In this dark hour, we are propelled to this call to which we invite all to join us.

Mon Mar 23, 2020

IAF Urgent Call to Contact Congressional Members Now -Industrial Areas Foundation


Urgent Call to Contact Congressional Members Now

The Covid-19 pandemic is precipitating an economic crisis of historic proportions, requiring sacrifices from all Americans to avoid a massive loss of life. Congress must respond with a fiscal policy aimed at avoiding a serious Depression. The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) urges Congress to deliver an economic stimulus plan that protects those who urgently need help the most: American workers, families, and small businesses on the front lines of this national emergency.

Contact your congressional members NOW to urge them to act boldly and swiftly to:

  1. Help American Workers and Families Now: Make an immediate payment of $2,000 per person, followed by additional monthly payments for as long as the economic crisis persists.
  2. Save Jobs and Protect Service Sector Workers: Expand Unemployment Insurance and Paid Sick Leave to cover 90% of wages, for all workers regardless of company size or whether they are contract workers. Provide service and food distribution worker hazard pay and additional health protections. Offer grants to companies, small businesses, and charitable nonprofits that keep workers on their payroll at 80% of pre-crisis wages. Provide 0% loans and grants to charitable and religious nonprofits under the SBA Disaster Relief program to meet immediate community needs. Create large-scale public works in partnership with the religious and non-profit sectors to provide living wage employment with benefits and vital services for families.
  3. Drastically Expand Health Care Coverage for the Most Vulnerable: Provide universal & free Covid-19 tests with extensive community outreach to targeted high risk populations. Increase Medicaid contribution nationwide by 10 percentage points over each participating state's rate, and reinstate the 100% federal contribution for Medicaid expansion.
  4. Invest Heavily in Health Care Infrastructure to Support Front Line Workers and Providers: Exercise the full powers under the Defense Production Act to produce health care equipment including test kits, ventilators, N95 respirator masks, protective clothing and hospital beds.
  5. Protect Our Communities: Suspend all evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs for homeowners, renters, religious institutions, and non-profit organizations. Provide free internet, cable and phone - essential for safety and remote public education. Suspend the public charge rule for the duration of the crisis and ensure that no services utilized during this period apply to any reinstated rule.
  6. Avoid the Mistakes of the 2008 Financial Sector Bailouts: Require safeguards and strict accountability that all corporations seeking bailout funds provide, among other provisions, protection of workers' jobs, retirement plans, right to organize, healthcare and paid sick leave. Prohibit executive pay raises and bonuses with these funds. Require market-rate returns on public dollars invested. For corporations with over 500 employees, limit bailouts only to firms denied private financing.

Contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators now! The federal government must act swiftly and decisively. We must take all necessary steps to avoid the loss of income, housing, safety, and crumbling communities. Those most at risk should be the direct and primary beneficiaries of federal intervention, not multinational corporations.

1 The IAF represents 65 Broad-Based citizens' organizations throughout the US, working with thousands of religious congregations, small businesses, education institutions, non-profits, civic organizations, unions to make change on social justice issues.

Mon Feb 10, 2020

Metro IAF leadership training in Connecticut -Metro IAF

Over 120 leaders from across Metro IAF- Northeast participated in an intensive 3-day leadership training and retreat. Leaders from GBIO, CONECT, NJ Together, LI CAN, SBC, MT, Queens Power & EBC had candid conversations about what it means to build and wield power; how to identify and train teams of leaders; and how to run an effective action.

During the debrief, we committed to bring new leaders to another 3-day training in Spring 2020, which is currently being planned.

Mon Feb 10, 2020

EBC working to tackle the Criminal Justice System -EBC

More than 100 East Brooklyn Congregations leaders packed the basement of Mt. Lebanon church to discuss the problems with the criminal justice system, especially for formerly incarcerated individuals. We heard testimonials about the difficulty finding affordable housing and living-wage work; and lack of access to mental health care services; legal representation; and how individuals leave prison with no state identification making the aforementioned problems especially difficult.  Outreach continues, as the leaders of EBC work to find more representation from individuals who have served time in jail or prison.

Mon Feb 10, 2020

New Jersey Together presses for leadership on education funding -New Jersey Together

Over 60 New Jersey Together's leaders pressed the Jersey City Board of Education to lead when it comes to education funding.  In the last ten years, Jersey City Public Schools have gone from almost fully funded to $125 million underfunded each year. The impact of this underfunding has been incredibly concrete -- our leaders have heard repeated stories of lost reading programs, lost counselors, lost crisis intervention teachers & assistant principals, and more than 150 teachers lost!

NJT's Education Team crunched the numbers and is pressing for $50 million more to be invested in & in support of classrooms next year. Read about the proposal & the reasoning for these numbers HERE.

We have much further to go before the budget is passed by the Board of Education, and there will need to be additional leadership from the City Council & Mayor to make this a reality and to reduce the tax impact on families.

Coverage of the January 30th action in the Jersey Journal HERE.

Check out more photos on Facebook.


Mon Feb 10, 2020

The stink, the mice, the yelling. My time in solitary was the 'most savage moment of my life,’ Rutgers grad recalls. -Metro IAF

Stephon Whitley, who served time at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and is now a Metro IAF organizer, says solitary confinement had a lasting impact on him.

The 8th amendment bans cruel and unusual punishment.  However, here in America we don't have to look far to find examples of such. Unfortunately, some forms are hidden, such as what happens behind prison walls. As organizers we aim to gain power to make changes against injustices. In my op ed I shared my experience in solitary confinement, which helped towards forcing changes in the use and conditions of solitary confinement in New Jersey. This is just an example of power that can be gained from storytelling.

Read Stephon's Opinion Piece HERE.

Wed Nov 27, 2019

Metro IAF’s Mike Gecan addressing obstacles faced by remote populations who are underrepresented in Ohio -The Washington Post

Washington Post Opinion Piece:
How rural America can grab a bigger megaphone

HILLSBORO, Ohio — The geographic remoteness of the homes, farms and businesses of millions of rural Americans leaves them underrepresented in power centers such as state capitals and Washington and, too often, victims of stereotypical narratives in the media. That might sound wrong to anyone narrowly focused on the design of the electoral college and other aspects of our federal system, but it’s simply an obvious reality to those forced to watch from afar as one major public-policy decision after another gets made in urban locales. One person who recognizes this disparity is Mike Gecan, senior organizer at Metro Industrial Areas Foundation based in Chicago. In something of a unique social experiment, Gecan is attempting to address obstacles faced by populations who are disadvantaged by residing in far-off areas of the map.
Read full Opinion Piece HERE.
Wed Nov 27, 2019

Writing for IAF Leaders and Organizers 2.0 -Metro IAF

Writing is to organizing as preaching is to religion: We have to do it well if we hope to build the organization/congregation.
That was the theme of the second “Writing for IAF Organizers and Leaders” workshop held over Indigenous People’s Day weekend in Chicago from October 13-15, 2019. The workshop was organized and led by Greg Pierce, the Metro IAF organizer in Illinois, and participants include 7 organizers and 5 leaders from Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois.
The question asked at the end of the intensive 48 hours was: “Are you convinced that writing well would increase your personal and organizational power?”
All the participants agreed that it would. The issue was how they would find the time and develop the discipline to write
“First you have to write a good opening sentence” was the first lesson. In the initial introductions, participants were asked to pick from a list of great opening sentences in a book of essays, The Best American Non-Required Reading. Half the group chose this sentence from “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance,” an excerpt from Kiese Laymon’s book Cold Drunk: “I’ve had guns pulled on me by four people under Central Mississippi skies—once by a white undercover cop, once by a young brother trying to rob me for the leftovers of a weak work-study check, once by my mother and twice by myself.” This led, by popular demand, to a reading of the entire essay, done with great passion and eloquence by organizer Terrell Williams Lead Organizer of Turnaround Tuesday.
The other highlight of the workshop was a storytelling session, done over refreshments on Monday night, where each participant told one or more stories to the rest of the group, stories that all agreed needed to be written and shared with a larger audience.
A lot of workshop time was spent on the “how” of writing: how to find time and discipline, how to edit multiple drafts, how to develop a personal or organizational style sheet, how to write with multiple authors in an organization, how to get the work published (even if we have to publish it ourselves), how to get people to read it, and how it could build our organizations.
The evaluation of the three-day event was that the IAF needs to make good writing part of its organizational toolbox. A third workshop is tentatively scheduled for the same weekend in October 2020, at a site yet to be determined. Shorter versions of the workshop were also recommended that might be offered to individual IAF organizations or clusters of IAF affiliates or in conjunction with other training. For further information, contact Greg Pierce at or on his cell at 773-590-3801.
Thu Oct 3, 2019

Leadership Spotlight: Bonnie Gilbert & Michael Rubenstein -GBIO

Bonny Gilbert and Michael Rubenstein, co-chairs of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) Health Care Action Team, celebrated a big win last November, after Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced an agreement saving consumers $1.2 billion dollars over 7 years in the merger of two large Boston-area hospital systems.

This win left the pair inspired to do more. Now, they are leading GBIO in a legislative campaign to improve health care by (a) lowering the cost of prescription drugs, (b) increasing access to affordable mental health care, and (c) lowering out-of-pocket expenses — and they see this as just the beginning.

Gilbert and Rubenstein share a big vision “the re-injection of human-centered values” into our healthcare system. Rubenstein explains, “our healthcare system is economically driven. Instead, it should fundamentally ensure that people are thriving and healthy.” Gilbert acknowledges that realizing this vision will be a challenge. “The opponents are big and powerful. At GBIO, we need to continue to build our own power.”

For both Gilbert and Rubenstein, the fight is personal.  Gilbert cites the $24,000 her family spends annually on health care as evidence of runaway costs. Rubenstein describes his shock at the “complexity of the billings and charges” after his wife’s two toe surgeries. Both were drawn to action after realizing that many others shared these struggles with the healthcare system.

GBIO made health care history in 2006, as part of the coalition that passed Health Care Reform in Massachusetts, legislation which paved the way for the Affordable Care Act of 2010. After a second legislative victory in 2012, health care took a back seat to other issue areas within GBIO. Says Gilbert, “I was very passionate about moving back into action around costs and access.”  Gilbert became chair of the Health Care Action Team in 2016, after just a few years with GBIO. Rubenstein joined the team in 2017, quickly taking on more leadership, and joined Gilbert as co-chair last year.

For both, working with GBIO has been a powerful learning experience. When Rubenstein learned about GBIO from a member of his synagogue, he was looking for a new challenge. A successful entrepreneur, he had recently sold his company, after growing it for 25 years. Following the sale, he spent a year at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative program, hoping to move into social entrepreneurship.  “Soon after I joined GBIO, I began going to meetings with key players in the healthcare industry (insurance organizations, hospital groups). The hospital merger became an opportunity for all sorts of stakeholders to weigh in on this question of power.

It made me realize that GBIO’s way of building and deploying power was an exciting model for making change. That’s what keeps me involved.”  Adds Rubenstein, “I’m still in the learning process of how to do this work. You don’t have to be perfect from Day 1. Instead, people take action, learn from the reactions others have, and then act again. There aren’t a lot of places where this way of learning is possible.”
Gilbert worked for years in finance, and then became an attorney, first working in the Attorney General’s office, and then practicing for a decade as an appellate criminal defense lawyer.  She is now in a new career as a reverse mortgage lender, working with seniors and their financial advisors.  For Gilbert, whose careers have been more in line with direct service, GBIO fulfills a dream to have a broader impact at the policy level and gives her the opportunity to grow as a leader. “First, it was exciting to take on a leadership role — making strategic decisions, learning about complex issues, and meeting with policy makers.”  Now, she observes, it is “exciting to help new people step in and lead.”  But she admits that it was a little challenging, when Rubenstein first joined her as co-chair, learning how to “do this work together.”  Both Gilbert and Rubenstein are now going through these growing pains again as they build the GBIO health care team, “learning how to delegate in a positive way.”  Says Gilbert, “at our recent Health Care Assembly in May, people who had never been to an action before told amazing stories. Michael and I each did a small piece but many other people stepped up to make it happen. It was so exciting and moving to see health care, once again, become an issue for all of GBIO. It took my breath away.”

Wed Jul 31, 2019

Metro IAF NY Fighting to Improve Conditions for Tenants -The New York Times

Photo Credit: Damon Winter / New York Times
On July 30th, the NY Times published an Editorial laying out the ongoing problems in New York City’s public housing. This was informed by interviews with several Metro IAF NY tenant leaders, including Bernard Smith from South Bronx Churches who is quoted in the editorial. 
The editorial also focused on:
  • A report by the Federal Government’s Monitor detailing the multiple ways in which the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has not moved fast enough to make reforms. The monitor was appointed as a result of Metro IAF leaders pushing the US Attorney to investigate corruption and neglect at NYCHA.
  • How much more work NYCHA must do to properly remediate mold in order to be in compliance with Metro IAF’s Baez V. NYCHA Federal Court Consent Decree, and 
  • An audit by Metro IAF ally, Comptroller Scott Stringer on how NYCHA continues to cause leaks and mold, as well as waste money, through improper roof repair.
Metro IAF is continuing to work to ensure the public officials do not merely expose NYCHA’s wrong doing, but actually hold them accountable, and that the Federal Court fully implements the independent oversight contained in our revised mold consent decree, which could force NYCHA to actually improve living conditions for all of its tenants. 
Mon Jul 29, 2019

GCC Action Walks Neighborhood to Identify Blighted Properties -Greater Cleveland Congregations

On Saturday, June 8, 58 volunteers from 12 Greater Cleveland Congregations member congregations from across Cuyahoga County assembled at Noble Road Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights to participate in a half-hour training on how to identify deteriorating houses and then disperse in teams of two volunteers to walk the entire Noble Neighborhood in Cleveland Heights. The teams were tasked with identifying houses in seriously deteriorated condition so the GCC Cleveland Heights Housing Team can work to get these homes repaired.
The GCC Heights Housing Team is taking the list of properties identified, research ownership and status of each, and request that the City of Cleveland Heights do a "complaint inspection" that will place these properties at the top of the City's agenda. Focus of the neighborhood walk was on properties that are bank or investor owned, tax delinquent, and/or vacant.
The GCC Heights Housing Team will report the results of the Action as they are made available. 
Mon Jul 29, 2019

Honoring a true leader: Sister Christine Stephens, CDP -Industrial Areas Foundation

Sister Christine Stephens, CDP entered eternal life on July 18, 2019 at the age of 78.
She was the younger of two daughters born to Walter Irving and Frances Louise (Bulian) Stephens. She was born December 22, 1940 in Austin, Texas and was given the Baptismal name, Mary Christine. She entered the Congregation of Divine Providence on September 7, 1962 and professed first vows as a Sister of Divine Providence on June 22, 1964. Sister Christine graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics prior to entering Our Lady of the Lake Convent. She later earned a Master of Arts in History from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.
Sister Christine attributes her faith formation to her parents who set the example of perseverance and seeking justice for one’s family and community. Her father was a member of the pipe fitters union. This foundation served Sister Christine in her first seven years as a teacher, then as a social worker for eight years, and expanded and deepened when she became an organizer 45 years ago.
Sister Christine did not choose organizing as a ministry, it chose her. She was spotted by her now close friend and mentor, Ernesto Cortés, Jr., who said it was her anger that caught his attention. That was the first time she viewed her anger in a positive light. The work of justice was at the heart of her ministry and her life. Her work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) was the vehicle to funnel her anger against injustice.
Sister Christine’s commitment to identifying, training and transforming leaders and organizers throughout the country worked to bring millions of dollars for water and waste water to the colonias along the Texas/New Mexico Border, instrumental in developing the Alliance School strategy that impacted hundreds of schools across the country, plus the creation of nationally renowned job training programs modeled after Project QUEST in San Antonio.
Her advocacy work during the past four decades in her various roles, as National IAF Co-Director and Supervisor of organizations across the IAF Network will be greatly missed. Her organizing career began with The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) in Houston where she was a founder, followed by Lead Organizer of C.O.P.S. in San Antonio and Dallas Area Interfaith.
She enjoyed seeing ordinary leaders who worked across multi faith traditions, economic lines and race to do extraordinary things in their communities. She breathed and lived the Gospel values of justice and leaves a legacy to be continued. She had an enduring faith in the values of democracy.
She is survived by her sister Sarah Howell, and all her Sisters of Divine Providence. She is also survived by her niece Angela Duhon (William), their children, Emma and Nathaniel. She was preceded in death by her parents Walter and Frances Stephens.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Sisters of Divine Providence, 515 S.W. 24th Street, San Antonio, TX 78207-4619.
Mon Jul 29, 2019

“Stark! Cologne” goes after gyms that discriminate and empty city apartments -DICO

Shortly before the summer holidays began, leaders from the north of Cologne kicked off public campaigns on two new issues that have been in the works for several months. Following up on stories heard in their mosque communities a team of young leaders did a systematic check of discriminatory practices by a local chain of fitness studios. Women with head scarves were forbidden to exercise and men who “looked foreign” were put on a waiting list, while their “German” counterparts were welcomed into membership. The firm refused to react to a hand delivered letter asking for a meeting and so at an assembly on July 5th the leaders launched a social media campaign to shame the owners into talking. (Link to instagram:
In the midst of a severe housing crunch in Cologne leaders from STARK! also tracked down empty city-leased apartments in several neighborhoods, finding that many were vacant for up to a year or more. These units are part of a contingent of 10,000 apartments that the city government reserves for families in acute housing need. This is a full 20% of the total number of units owned by the city’s public housing corporation. Initial talks with both the housing corporation and the city proved inconclusive, so the team is asking for hard numbers and transparency about just how these apartments are (or are not) being allocated. The head of the Dept. for Social Affairs has agreed to a meeting in August and further talks are being scheduled with local officials who are responsible for allocating the units on a case-by-case basis.
Mon Jul 29, 2019

Summer Action of the Berlin Community Organizations: Important Victories, Challenge to the Politicians to Build Housing in Berlin -DICO

Five hundred Leaders from the four community organizations in Berlin (SO! Mit uns, Wir sind da!, Wir in Neukölln and Wir bewegen Spandau) gathered on June 18th on the 74 acre former industrial  site in Grünau where we proposed building some 3,000 units of affordable housing. Both borough and state officials were invited to justify their continued vociferous opposition to the plan. They failed to attend, and were called to task by the leadership. The fact remains that Berlin needs a minimum of 20,000 new units a year to accommodate its growing population. Current production is significantly below this number. We will keep up the fight both in Grünau and elsewhere in the city!

Photo: Valentin Paster

Victories both city-wide and local were celebrated and publically acknowledged. The State Secretary for Family and Youth announced significant progress on our package of measures to open the path of certification as early childhood educators to provide a more diverse cohort (especially immigrants and refugees) and thus help to close the gap of some 4,000 missing kindergarden teachers. In a local victory in the southeast of Berlin, the oldest ferry in the city was saved from closing and another line will get increased service at peak times.
The assembly was also an occasion to strengthen the ties between very diverse and geographically separated institutions in the city, both religious and secular, as a clear counterweight to the growing threat of far right and Neo-Nazi movements and parties in Germany.
Thu Jun 27, 2019

At Health Care Action Day, GBIO and Coalition Partners Fight the High Cost of Prescription Drugs, Build Power for Year-Long Health Care Campaign -GBIO

Leaders gather with MA legislators Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Christine Barber to target the high and rising cost of prescription drugs.
130 leaders from Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) and prescription drug affordability coalition partners – including Health Care for All, Mass Senior Action Council, JALSA, Right Care Alliance, Disability Policy Consortium, and SEIU1199 – gathered at the Massachusetts state house on June 12 to target the rising costs of prescription drugs via new laws in the fiscal 2020 budget as well as comprehensive legislation (H.1133/S.706).
Participants gathered outside the statehouse with MA Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Christine Barber, cosponsors of the bill, then 16 teams met with legislators and legislative aides to ask for their support of the bill and corresponding budget language.
This day of action was part of a broader GBIO Health Care campaign that will span the legislative session and build on past victories in health care.
The campaign has three aims:
  1. Limit the cost of expensive prescription drugs
  2. Remove the stumbling blocks to getting affordable care for mental health and substance use disorders
  3. Reduce out-of-pocket costs for healthcare
GBIO launched this year-long campaign with a Health Care Assembly on May 29, attended by 170. At the Assembly, leaders shared powerful and heart-wrenching stories of struggles with the current health care system. One described a 40-year chronic illness that cost her close to $15,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses. Another told how her suicidal daughter was turned away from a psych ward because the insurance company refused to pay for any stay longer than 3 days. Another told of an elderly patient on the verge of suicide because Medicaid refused to pay for her depression medications. Participants also shared their own health care stories in break-out house-meetings. 
Thu Jun 27, 2019

LCU builds school-based clinics one tour at a time -Lake County United

Parents of the Waukegan School District (16,000 students and 70% low-income) and residents of Waukegan are working together as part of Lake County United (LCU) to press for a mental health clinic in the High School.  LCU organized a tour of a clinic in another school district with three school members, including the President, and top district staff attending, resulting in an increase of support and sense of urgency to address this need.

Thu Jun 27, 2019

Community Health Worker Poster Wins People’s Choice Award -BUILD

BUILD Community Health Worker (CHW) Griselda “Zelda” Funn, a Turnaround Tuesday graduate who works at University of Maryland Midtown Clinic, won the “People’s Choice” Award for her poster presentation at the 4th Annual Symposium on Home and Community Based Care. The symposium presented by the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing was well attended by nurses and social workers and other home and community based care providers. The poster was entitled “Recruitment, Training, and Placement of Community Health Workers in Baltimore City in the Global Budget Revenue Era.” Zelda was the only CHW in attendance, and was “very engaging” with visitors to the poster, telling stories and explaining the process of training and placement.

Thu Jun 27, 2019

BUILD Unites 50 Citizens in Oliver Neighborhood Cleanup -BUILD

On April 27th, 2019, over 50 people from three BUILD member institutions—Knox Presbyterian Church, ReBUILD Metro, and the Oliver Action Team—gathered at the Dawson Family Memorial Garden in Oliver to clean key spaces in the neighborhood and share future hopes for local green spaces.
The garden, located at Preston St and Eden St at the south end of Oliver, honors the seven members of the Dawson family who were tragically killed when their home was firebombed in 2002. One Oliver resident and BUILD leader, Celena Owens, kicked off the action with a few words about her relationship with her neighborhood and her memory of the Dawson murders: “I knew that this happened somewhere in East Baltimore, but I didn’t know it was the neighborhood that I would later move to.” 
After their moment of somber reflection and remembrance, the cleanup crew sprang into action, beautifying select spots around the garden, on Biddle Street, and along the Gay Street Corridor. The day was full of hard work and connection (and fun) among the residents of Oliver—a display of the community building and neighborhood dedication that BUILD is facilitating all over Baltimore.
Sat May 11, 2019

OP-ED IN NY DAILY NEWS: The politics we deserve -NY Daily News

We desperately need to reinvent the way we think and talk about problem-solving in America today

by Mike Gecan, IAF Co-Director


You don’t have to choose between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren, or Jared Kushner and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or market capitalism and state socialism, or the far right and the far left, or Fox News and MSNBC.

While these are the dominant, incessant, compulsive polarities of modern public discourse, the demand and the tendency to choose are traps. You can take your hand off the nut (or nuts), loosen your grip, let them both drop. With a free hand, you can reach out and take hold of another way of doing things in the public arena: of thinking and acting and creating impact that rebuilds communities, saves and improves countless lives, and restores a sense of stability and forward motion in our country.
Sat May 11, 2019

BUILD's Diversity & Power on Display at March for Our Schools -BUILD

On March 11, 2019, BUILD’s Youth & Education issue action team demonstrated the diversity and power of BUILD by sending a group of 134 BUILD members to participate in the March for Our Schools rally alongside thousands of teachers, students, and parents from across Maryland.

Read about how a group of BUILD leaders trained families & teachers for this Action HERE.

Fri May 10, 2019

A Tribute Metro IAF's Pat Oettinger by IAF Co-Director Mike Gecan -Metro IAF

 Pat with Ryan Elfeld
Pat Oettinger is retiring after more than 40 years of exemplary service as a parish leader, QCO president, and Metro IAF administrator.  There's not better way to describe Pat's start with the IAF and organizing than to read this vignette from Greg Pierce who, like Pat, has figured out how to play various critical roles and make a series of remarkable contributions to our network over that same period:
"Pat Oettinger was the parish secretary of Resurrection Ascension Catholic Church in Rego Park, New York City, when I arrived as the lead organizer of the Queens Citizens Organization (QCO) in the late 1970s. I remember she was instinctively conservative and skeptical about the entire organizing effort, but I knew if she ever bought in to organizing she would bring her entire parish and, indeed, the rest of Queens behind here. Soon she was president of the organization!
"One time, when Mario Cuomo was still Lieutenant Governor of New York State, he promised to set up a meeting for QCO with the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the monolithic and unaccountable government institution set up by Robert Moses to do his public projects. But Cuomo had failed to do so and time was running out. Pat and some of the other QCO leaders wrote a one-page "accountability report" announcing that Cuomo had failed to do what he had promised. We sent it to Cuomo and told the future Governor we would distribute 50,000 copies of the report through all our member institutions the following weekend. Instead, Cuomo showed up at the Resurrection Ascension rectory (where Pat was working) that Friday, to prove to her that he had done what he had promised. The "accountability report" was never distributed.
"Pat and I and the QCO leaders all learned an important lesson in power that day. The question we asked ourselves before our subsequent actions was always the same: Where's the tension? If there wasn't any, we added it, and Pat Oettinger was often the one that made sure it happened."
I first met Pat a few years later, in 1980, when I arrived to start as the first lead organizer of East Brooklyn Congregations. I was always struck by her no-nonsense approach to politics and to life in general, her ability to absorb all the ups and downs of our work in Queens and in New York City as a whole, and her wry sense of humor.
When we began Metro IAF, approximately 25 years ago, Pat became the administrative person that I, my organizer colleagues, and our Metro IAF board relied on.  She lived the old Alinsky precept of "low overhead and high production" over all those years -- including years when it was very uncertain that we would emerge with more than a few dollars in the bank.  Whenever the situation got tight, Pat would send me a little email inquiring about when the next check would be arriving.  Pat understood how to nudge when necessary and to relax when not.  As her co-worker over so many years, I place her in the pantheon of extraordinary administrative organizers -- with Lucille Clark, who retired from EBC and Patty Morales, current senior administrator for IAF Southwest -- who enabled the rest of us to do our organizing work knowing that we could count on unquestioned and unfailing support, professionalism, and foresight. 
Oettinger Grandchildren Billy , Kirsten and Chris
Photos above in story - 
Top: Pat with Ryan Elfeld
Middle: Pat with her favorite past-time, great-grandson Will
Fri Dec 14, 2018

First-Ever IAF “Writing for Organizers and Leaders” Workshop Held in Chicago -Metro IAF

Greg Pierce, publisher of ACTA Publications in Chicago and long-time IAF leader and organizer
Do we have to “love” writing to do it well, or can we write well just because it needs to be done? 
This was one of the first questions fourteen active IAF leaders and organizers grappled with during a two-day intensive immersion workshop led by long-time IAF leader/organizer Greg Pierce, the publisher of ACTA Publications in Chicago. The sessions were filled with lots of specific tips on things like: getting started; recognizing great first and last lines; picking the best adjectives, adverbs, and verbs; editing multiple drafts and welcoming editing by others; collaborative writing; and finishing and publishing a piece. 
Much of the training centered on how to make our writing “persuasive,” which is the opposite of “argumentative.” This takes “sweetness, which is the Greek origin of the word persuade,” Pierce pointed out. “That means our writing must be relational, vulnerable, passionate, humorous, provocative, disinterested, and powerful…all at the same time.” The group spent a lot of time discussing how leaders and organizers must be able to tell well-crafted stories as examples of what they are trying to persuade others to do.
The participants committed to disciplining themselves to make time to write and to share what they write with one another. They promised to teach what they learned with those in their organizations and recommended the workshop be held again at other times and in other locales.
From the Organizers:
“…a transformative experience.” Keisha Krumm, Lead Organizer, Common Ground, Milwaukee
“The workshop was deeply invigorating…a true time of joy.” Perry Perkins, Organizer, Mississippi and Louisiana IAF
“I found it incredibly insightful and agitational.” Rev. Alison Dunn-Almaguer, Organizer, Washington Interfaith Network (WIN)
For information on the next “Writing for Organizers and Leaders” workshop, contact Greg Pierce at Several insightful books written by IAF leaders and organizers—including Ed Chambers, Mike Gecan, Ernesto Cortes, Jonathan Lange, Amy Vruno, Ben Gordon, Timothy Tilghman, —have been published by ACTA Publications and can be ordered from or 800-397-2282.
Fri Dec 14, 2018

Jersey City Together Continues Push for Equity in Affordable Housing, Gun Safety and Education -Jersey City Together

More than 500 Jersey City Together (JCT) leaders came together to call for increased action by the city and state’s elected officials to address affordable housing, gun safety and education. Stories were shared by leaders of terrible conditions they face daily. A high school student shared that school funding was so short, it couldn’t fix a broken sink that fell off a wall. Another resident shared how she catches at least 17 mice in her apartment each night. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop committed to continuing his partnership with JCT to address community issues, and JCT plans to meet with both Governor Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in January of 2019.
Photo by Corey W. McDonald, The Jersey Journal
Photo by Corey W. McDonald, The Jersey Journal
Fri Dec 14, 2018

A Spotlight on Rabbi Enid G. Lader, Leader of Greater Cleveland Congregations -Greater Cleveland Congregations

Rabbi Lader Named a 2018 Difference Maker by the Cleveland Jewish News
Rabbi Enid Lader of Beth Israel – The West Temple was named a 2018 Difference Maker for volunteering and giving back to the community, particularly through her sharing a Jewish perspective and teaching in a variety of community venues. In addition to leading Beth Israel – The West Temple, Rabbi Lader is actively engaged with non-Jewish clergy councils in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood and Lakewood. 
“I think what informs (my desire to give back) is the famous teaching of Hillel: ‘If I am only for myself, what am I?’” Lader said. “The idea of, it’s not just my needs that are important, it’s the needs of people around me. If I can help in any way, I want to make myself available to do that.”
Tue Nov 20, 2018

A Spotlight on Rufaro Jenkins, Leader with the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) -WIN

Rufaro Jenkins is a native Washingtonian with a passion for her community.
Ms. Jenkins found WIN in 2008 when she learned that the city would be closing her apartment complex, Parkway Overlook, and that all 266 families would have to move out.  A friend told her, “if there would be any organization that would fight for the right to return and affordability with us, it would be WIN”.
Jenkins became deeply involved in the campaign and at her first action she witnessed her neighbors and other DC residents standing up and demanding action. This experience made her feel, “like we had a voice in the city,” and pushed her to fight harder.
Again, she saw the power of collective action when, while struggling to get a meeting with Council Member Barry, a team of WIN leaders showed up to a meeting at Bearny Elementary school on MLK Ave in Southeast DC, all wearing blue WIN t-shirts, and demanded that Barry meet with WIN. Then Council Member Barry finally agreed to sit down with the group, leaving Ms. Jenkins in awe of how powerful every DC resident could be, by coming together consistently and persistently in pursuit of justice.
Over the years, Ms. Jenkins has led and spoken at multiple WIN actions, helped lead a tour of the property with a former Mayor, held a community vigil, led voter efforts, and organized countless tenant meetings to keep the redevelopment of Parkway Overlook a central issue in the city.
After nearly 10 years of involvement with WIN, Ms. Jenkins reflects on what keeps her coming back:
“The work is not about any one person, or one issue. All the struggles and the concerns of this city are the concerns of WIN. WIN helps residents come together from all eight wards to make a difference and to be the liaisons between residents and public officials so that they can work together and truly ensure that no one is left behind or pushed aside.”
By day, Ms. Jenkins works for the federal government. However, her work doesn’t stop there. Ms. Jenkins is still the President of the Parkway Overlook East and West Tenant Association, Founder and CEO of Heavenly Flava, a board member for Brighter Day Enrichment Academy and Manpower DC, and a co-founding member of New Life Ministries.