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"Forward Together - Not One Step Back"

     A 14 hour bus trip is a long enough to learn a few things. The first was the call and response that is the center piece of The Poor People’s March on Washington. Here it is -

“Forward together” and the reply is “Not One Step Back”. It seems so simple. And it is. But it is also the bedrock of the Third Reconstruction of America. The Moral Reconstruction of America.

      The first Reconstruction, right after the Civil War, failed because violence and racism was too popular for many institutions, businesses and people. The Second Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, failed because too many people were willing to hurt their own future, their own families, their own country rather than let other people have freedom and some political power. We’ve seen it in the Senate hearings, in the current Texas RNC platform that calls for secession, in the fact that in the 1960’s small towns all over the South filled in their city pools rather than integrate. So this time we’re taking everyone forward. Our allies and our enemies.

“Forward Together” “Not One Step Back”

     That means we can’t leave anyone behind. If that means that Baptist ministers have to join the campaign for trans rights; that’s what has to happen and on June 18th, it did happen. It means that if union organizers are with a bunch of artists and a paper mâché tank, they are together. It means that disabilities have to be taken into account, that age and accidents have to be provided for.

“Forward Together” “Not Step Back”

     Was the event perfect? No. Were there problems? Oh, yeah. Whenever you have thousands of people, you have problems. But they are an organization that anticipated those problems. It began on the buses, with gift cards to cover meals on the road and even gas to get to the bus. Because they assumed they were attracting poor people.  At the event, there were moveable ramps so that wheelchair users didn’t have to go down a block to go up a curb. Cooling areas for the elderly or overheated. There was glorious chaos. There were problems finding food. Some groups fed their own people first. The sandwiches were cheese or BBQ and some people missed the old hand made turkey or peanut butter. New Mexico had free vegan tacos that could blister a Wisconsin tongue. Ice cream trucks circled the outside. Free food attracts random homeless people. That’s Ok. They too are going forward.

“Forward Together” “Not One Step Back”

     There were speeches by Rev. William Barber II, Yolanda King, music, dancing and representatives from all 50 states talking about their own personal issues in poverty, incarceration, homelessness, lack of healthcare, being gay, being trans, being undocumented, chronically ill. Some of which we missed because our bus got lost. It’s OK. Progress is messy.

     It was fun, trading signs, flags, and pins. Seeing heroes in real life and sneaking off to an ice-cream truck. Trying to meet up with people when cell phones are dead, buses being late. Cleaning up behind us because sanitation workers are people too. Will there be sacrifices in this movement? Yeah, like being last in line for pizza, having sore feet for days, wearing a mask on a 14 hour bus trip. Freedom is worth the cost.

“Forward together” “Not one step back”

     I’ve seen the future IF If --we all come together. A future where there is plenty for all because money isn’t wasted on war and hate. Where we can find food and shelter for all. Where healthcare is a right and no dies by violence.

“Forward Together” “Not One Step Back”

     Remember this when someone says that “those people’s” rights can wait or don’t matter. That can’t be true. Whether Texans or trans we need to go-

“Forward Together” “Not One Step Back”

ESTHER member Joyce Frohn and her daughter Elizabeth attended the "Poor People's March on Washington DC" this past month.

ESTHER Transit Task Force has New Leaders

After many years of remarkable leadership, Connie Kanitz has decided to resign from her leadership of the Transportation Task Force. We are very grateful for the many years that Connie dedicated to leading this group and fighting for accessible public transportation in the Fox Valley and around the state. She has been a tireless and respected leader on issues regarding public transportation.

We are happy to announce that two people have stepped up to lead the group in Connie’s absence. Susan Garcia-Franz is a Public Health Strategist with the Winnebago County Public Health Department as well as a long-time member of the task force. We are so pleased that she has decided to co-facilitate the task force along with Adam Belcorelli. Adam is an associate planner with the East Central Regional Planning Commission and brings extensive experience to the group in building transportation equity and accessibility in the Fox Valley. We are pleased that these talented and experienced individuals have stepped into this role as task force leaders.

One of the issues that we currently are exploring comes from a project currently in place in Portland, Oregon. There is a program there where incarcerated individuals are able to earn their CDL license while in prison. Once they are released they are hired by the regional transit system to work as bus drivers. This serves two purposes. It provides bus drivers to system that is desperately lacking drivers and it provides a good job to a returning citizen who is in need of a well-paying job to get back on their feet. The Fox Valley has very similar issues to Portland. Join us as we explore whether a program like this could happen in the Fox Valley.

We have changed when are task force currently meets. We now meet the first Tuesday of every month at 10 am via zoom. Please contact us at office@esther-foxvalley.org to receive the zoom link.

EXPO Empathy Day of Action

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A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to the state capital in Madison for EXPO’s Empathy Day of Action. We spent the day learning from EXPO leaders, senators, and representatives on Unlock the Vote and AJR 107. Using the information we learned, we got to have conversations with our legislators, representatives, and their staff. We met with those who voted in favor of AJR 107 which is a constitutional amendment that was created after the Waukesha parade tragedy. 

This amendment would change the eligibility and release conditions prior to a conviction. This amendment would also create a stricter cash bail system by making it possible for judges to consider past criminal history when setting bail charges. Setting higher bail charges would punish low-income people and keep more people incarcerated if they cannot pay bail. 

Solar Power Coming to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Calumet has started the process of installing solar panels on their roof. In total, there will be 125 panels and the process should be completed in the next month or two. This project has been in the works for the past three years with extensive planning and fundraising. 

These panels will generate up to 45% of the electrical usage at Prince of Peace and reduce up to 62,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise come from electrical power. 

Prince of Peace is looking forward to the completion of this project and is excited to make their organization more environmentally friendly. This project will be a great addition to the Appleton community. For any more information or questions, contact Ron Jones at rjones3155@gmail.com.

Shackling of Pregnant Incarcerated Women

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At ESTHER’s most recent Mental Health Task Force meeting, we were joined by two women who educated us on an issue that is currently affecting incarcerated pregnant women. 

One of the women who joined us was Felicia Turner-Walton, who is the CEO and Founder of Healing Our Hearts. This is a non-profit based out of Madison that provides support to those that have experienced loss. This organization is committed to providing an understanding of grief that is centered around black and brown communities. 

The issue they covered during our meeting was the injustice of shackling and how it affects incarcerated pregnant women. Prisons have historically been designed by men, for men. Inmate treatment has therefore not taken into account women’s specific needs. Pregnant inmates are thus shackled while receiving medical care because that is how all inmates are treated. Shackling is an inhumane and dangerous practice as it limits the medical care that can be provided due to the restraints and it puts more stress on the pregnant woman or birthing mother.

When I first learned of this practice during our meeting, I had a mixture of feelings. On one hand, I was shocked to learn about this inhumane practice. On the other hand, I was not surprised as prison systems have historically been created to control black and brown communities. These systems of control therefore do not take into account the specific indignities that pregnant women face and the different treatment they need to receive. 

 

Thoughts on “Standing Together, Speaking Out for MMIWG2S, Land & Water”

—By Rick Kitchen

“Standing Together, Speaking Out for MMIWG2S, Land & Water” is the name for our upcoming 3rd annual vigil in Houdini Plaza in downtown Appleton on February 14th. If you are interested in this hybrid (live and live-streamed) event, here is the ESTHER link: Standing Together, Speaking Out for MMIWG2S, Land & Water. The vigil is co-hosted by Kristin Welch’s Waking Women Healing Institute (WWHI) and ESTHER.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2 Spirits (MMIWG2S) is an epidemic across North America, which is known as Turtle Island to Indigenous people. Indigenous people want an end to molestation, rape, trafficking, and murder. American Indians and Alaskan Natives are 2.5x as likely to experience violent crimes and at least 2x more likely to experience rape or sexual assault crimes compared to all other races. In the United States and Canada, an average of 40% of the women who were victims of sex trafficking identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native. About 85% of Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime and more than 55% of Indigenous women experience sexual violence in their lifetime.

WISDOM Welcomes new Community Organizer

WISDOM is excited to welcome a new member to their organization, Raabia Wudoch. She is a community organizer for WISDOM and will be serving the north-central area of Wisconsin. Wudoch holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a minor in Social Justice, and just earned her Master’s in Public Administration from UW Oshkosh.

When deciding on a master’s program, Wudoch wanted to be a public servant and work with a nonprofit organization. She is very passionate about social justice and has always been outspoken about various issues. With WISDOM, she will be able to utilize her passions and educational background, providing the organization with new perspectives and experiences. 

Wudoch is originally from Pakistan and is part of the Muslim community in Appleton. This faith perspective will not only widen WISDOM’s outreach, but it will create representation for the Muslim community. Wudoch states, “I’m really passionate about my community. Muslims are always in the back and their voices are often overlooked.” Having a person of color from a different faith background will help those people speak up and have their voices heard.

We are so excited to see what she accomplishes with WISDOM and will be here to provide any guidance that she needs.

 

EXPO Starting a New Chapter in Oshkosh

EX-incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO), an affiliated partner of WISDOM and ESTHER, will be starting up a new chapter in Oshkosh. Marianne Oleson will be leading this startup and can see firsthand the kind of support the community needs.

EXPO is focused on ending mass incarceration and providing support to those re-entering the community. Oshkosh in particular has a need for this program as it has 5 prisons, which is very rare for a community of that population size.

Part of EXPO’s mission is not only to support those people as they come back to the community but to help them find resources and opportunities. Oleson states that “Temporary living placement for people re-entering the community was closed in October. Anyone coming out of prison right now in Winnebago county will be homeless.” Part of creating an equitable system is providing access to housing, education, healthcare, etc. so that individuals can successfully be rehabilitated and rejoin the community.

With the startup of this new chapter, Oleson wants to “show the community that we are more than our worst mistakes.” People who come out of prison become our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Organizations like EXPO help change the stigma around incarcerated people and make the surrounding communities more accepting and understanding.

We are so excited to see the positive changes EXPO will make in Oshkosh and we will be helping and supporting them along the way.

EXPO will be holding their first meeting at the Most Blessed Sacrament Church, 449 High Avenue, Oshkosh, on Tuesday, February 1 at 6:30 PM.

If you have any questions regarding the Oshkosh EXPO chapter, please contact Marianne Oleson at marianne@expowisconsin.org.

Challenges of Finding Affordable Housing

The apartment with the bathroom sink in the hallway and the refrigerator in the living room was the final straw. My Dad said, "The rent and deposit are equal to a down payment on a house and the mortgage payments will be cheaper, too." And so we went looking for a house under $40,000.

My husband and I were both young and strong. We had experience with demolition, hard work and we had a friend who was a house inspector. We should have had an easy time.

There was the one with a basement wall on crutches. The one less than five feet from the railroad tracks. The one where a heavy smoker had left the walls brown and sticky.

We persisted. The realtor said, "This one has a note that the garage needs to be knocked down." We got there before the realtor. We said, “We can get that down in minutes."

She sighed, "That's the house."

At the next one I said, "How did that motorcycle get on a second floor balcony?"

Her reply? "The police were supposed to evict them."

When we found one that only needed a new roof and furnace, we thought it was perfect. A one and half bedroom house with five rooms. And when we talked to the neighbors we found that it had been rented to a family of six and the landlord kicked them out because he wanted to sell.

The three of us would be living there now except for the house that came up for auction when I was pregnant, which we grabbed while we could.

Joyce Frohn

Member of the Oshkosh ESTHER Task Force

Charter For Compassion

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ESTHER and the Charter for Compassion have recently joined in a partnership. The Charter for Compassion is a nonprofit organization founded in 2009, with a local chapter in Appleton. This organization has chapters in over 50 countries and continues to be an integral part in building community and human connection.

The Charter resonates closely with our values at ESTHER. We both have an interest in bringing communities together and promoting equity and justice. With these similar values, we know we will have a successful partnership into the future.

We are excited to continue expanding our community partnerships and learning from the leaders and members in those organizations.

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