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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.

Standing Tall for Justice

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A peace tree was commemorated on October 18, 2021, Indigenous People’s Day, to honor the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirits (MMIWG2S) of Wisconsin. Indigenous People’s Day celebrates Indigenous culture while also educating on the historical inaccuracies that have come along with Columbus Day. This event brought together many people from the Fox Valley and surrounding communities, showing support for the local Native communities of Wisconsin. The peace tree is a white pine from the Menominee Forest, generously donated by the Menominee people. This tree stands tall in our community and was planted adjacent to Ellen Kort Peace Park near the banks of the Fox River below downtown Appleton. This tree serves as a reminder of how we can better treat each other and the land.

The event was live-streamed and recorded. If you missed the live event, you can watch the recording on Facebook here.

The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote

By Penny Robinson

Her Voice Her Vote Our VictoryOn the evening of Thursday, August 25, The League of Women Voters of Appleton hosted keynote speaker Elaine Weiss, author of the highly acclaimed narrative history The Woman’s hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.

An accomplished storyteller, Ms. Weiss riveted the well-informed audience with details and photos, allowing them to feel that they almost were present. For three generations the suffragettes persisted, continuing to organize even after repeated failures and, for many years, lacking even the telephone (invented in 1876).

The campaign began with the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, at which Frederick Douglass was the only man to express support. Through a world pandemic, a civil and world war, numerous failed state campaigns, court battles and petitions to Congress, it culminated in marches and protests (which resulted in some arrests, imprisonment, and force-feeding), that led to the Nineteenth Amendment:

An Interview with K of Taperz Barber Shop

By Jill Smith

Please meet Cainan Davenport, otherwise known as K the Barber. He and his friend Michael Linwood own Taperz, a family-oriented barber shop located almost on the corner of College Avenue and Richmond Street in Appleton. K had some free time, which is rare fpr such a busy man, and gave me a few minutes so I could ask him about his thriving business and about how he uses his business to serve our community.

How long have you and your friend, Wood, owned Taperz barbershop? What kind of services do you offer there?

We’ve been in business for a little over three years. Basically, we cut all races, ethnicity, and genders. We have created a comfortable “old school” environment where our customers can come to talk, laugh and get a great haircut.

We are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10-6. Our busiest time of day is every day, all day. Every time we are in the shop, we are pretty much busy.

You not only run a successful business but you use your space to invite neighbors to the shop on Sunday afternoons to discuss issues and just be together. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Healing the Land

On Friday, July 16, I along with other ESTHER members went to Marinette in support of the Coalition to Save the Menominee River. This event was inspiring and allowed me to hear the stories of those who are working diligently to protect the river.

The extractive industry is a threat to wildlife, the surrounding environment, and Native communities. The extractive industry brings violence to Native communities and exacerbates the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Being at this event, I heard from people who are working specifically on this issue and how I can get more involved. This is my biggest passion, and it felt reaffirming hearing from people who care just as much as I do.

If we are looking for ways to better protect the environment, we need to listen to Indigenous communities such as the Menominee. Indigenous communities have been protecting and healing the land for many years. Their relationship with the land provides the best template for how we can move forward and heal the land and ourselves.

It was such an honor to witness a water blessing done by five generations of Menominee women. They mentioned how in their community, women are the water protectors. Women have a sacred connection with the water as the womb holds life-giving water. That relationship with the water is so beautiful and is just one of the many reasons why the Menominee River needs to be protected.

Kayla Nessmann

ESTHER Communications Coordinator

One Special ESTHER Leader

This year the ESTHER board nominated Steve Hirby for the Celebrating Volunteers Janet Berry Award.  While another worthy volunteer was selected, ESTHER would like to recognize Steve for everything he has done and continues to do for our organization. Steve’s dedication and his expertise in not only fundraising but also data management have been instrumental in our ability to thrive as an organization. Steve is a visionary and an organizing member of the board.  He has a standing position on the board and the executive team not just as a representative of his faith community or a task force but because he is … Steve.

As part of the nomination process, we asked people from three other organizations to write letters of support and their response was immediate and positive. Pastor Steve Savides (First Congregational United Church of Christ) wrote about there being no one more “beloved or respected” than Steve in the church, Pastor Jane Anderson wrote about ways Steve has been instrumental in helping the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ re-envision itself and position itself for the future, and Maren Peterson, Executive Director of NAMI, wrote about ways Steve has been a “lifeline of hope” for hundreds of individuals and families in the Fox Valley.  All spoke to his kindness, open mindedness, patience and keen intelligence.

Steve exemplifies the spirit of the Janet Berry Award. He truly is “A volunteer who has made great strides in his efforts to impact positive change in the Fox Valley, by creating, working for, and donating to a local community organization, and [his] efforts through time, resources, and influence – have been paramount to the success not only of [ESTHER] but also in building a just community.” We were very proud to nominate Steve Hirby for the Janet Berry Award.

Look Into Her Eyes

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This post was contributed by Connie Raether.

Look into the eyes of a mother…who faces the agonizing decision of choosing between her children.  One, who made the difficult decision to leave his homeland, Mexico, in search of an escape from poverty.  The others, who chose to stay and try to eke out a living in a country whose poverty rate escalates, as does the cost of living, due to their policies, and ours.  Either decision she makes, she loses a child. 

In this case, she chose to come to America, facing the untold terrors of crossing a border and coming to a strange and often unfriendly land.  She joins her son and struggles everyday to make a living and send money back to her family.  She has not seen her beloved son and daughter for years; she does not dare return to Mexico and they, like most Mexicans, cannot get a visa even to visit her here.  She does not see her children, her mother or her brothers, and knows that she may not see them, ever again.

I’ve looked into her eyes and, as a mother, felt her grief as she celebrated Mother’s Day.  When you look into her eyes, thank whatever higher power you believe in that you were fortunate enough to be born here, where you don’t have to make decisions that break your heart, and realize that it is indeed only fortune that separates you from her.  Look into her eyes when you think about how we will solve the issue of immigration.  I hope you can feel compassion for her and urge our politicians to make just and fair decisions as they ponder this issue; decisions that will no longer tear families apart but allow paths to citizenship for those already here and opportunities for their loved ones to join them.

 

Sponsor Spotlight: Waqsecewan Indigenous Catering

Lizette Bailey, of Waqsecewan Indigenous Catering, will cook you anything you want, and you will absolutely love it. Her specialty is Pre-contact Indigenous food, the foods that Native Americans prepared before everyone came over to North America. She states, “I serve vegans, vegetarians and anyone with any type of allergy.  I make any kind of food.  Italian, Asian, Pub Grub…you name it.”

Wāqsecewan (pronounced: Watah-Chee-Win) means: “Flows Bright” or “Bright Flowing Water.” A more specific description is, “How the light is so sparkly on top of flowing water.” She is Turtle Clan of the Menominee.

Wāqsecewan (Lizette) wants to reopen her catering business.  She wants to do it safely, by serving smaller parties in a socially distanced manner. She says, “I love it when I cater an event and when I share a story about the food that was prepared. When people are eating, there is a smile. It is so important.”

Wāqsecewan can be reached either by phone or email:  715-851-9501 • waqsecewancooks@gmail.com. Give her a call. Miigwech!

—Jill Smith

Read her story (and a recipe) in her own words below.

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