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Until How Long?

Almost lost in the news of the gut-wrenching testimonies in the death of George Floyd is the equally horrific increase by 150% in the attacks and killings within our beloved Asian community in the past year. The killings of Asian women in Atlanta and the brutal attack on an elderly Asian woman on the streets of New York are only recent examples of this ongoing tragedy in our midst. Members of the Asian community in the Fox Cities are being harrassed as well.

And then there is the plight of the high percentage of missing and/or murdered indigenous women. Mark Charles, indigenous author of Unsettling Truths, adapted a diagnosis from psychologist Rachel McNair, who says that some perpetrators of crime suffer from Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stess (PITS). Charles suggests that we as a country suffer from the same trauma, a subconscious guilt after four-hundred years of genocide and slavery, and don’t even realize it.

How long will it take for us to face our denial as a nation? Growth in this consciousness within our community will occur when we are willing to face reality and see ourselves as part of our national systemic racism. We as members of ESTHER encourage all of us to realize that we can no longer consider ourselves to be “innocent bystanders” to what is happening in America today. Last week, Ron, a young South Korean, asked that we “be self-aware, speak up, ask questions, be genuine and have respect for everyone.”

Gary Crevier
ESTHER President

Sponsor Spotlight: Eye Photograph, LLC

Mark Ferrell Eye Photograph LLC 800 S Lawe St Appleton 54915 9208513374Mark Ferrell is a man of many hats. After college, he served in the Navy. He traveled with rock-and-roll bands and set up stage lighting. He worked for the Democratic party during the Obama administration. He was a photographic technician in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Now he has made Appleton, Wisconsin, his home.

Mark’s photography studio is in The Draw along the Fox River on Lawe Street, where a variery of artists, artisans and creative professionals work and collaborate. He mentions, “It’s a pretty cool place. We used to have events, concerts and recitals. Lawrence University Jazz students were given carte blanche to show up on a Friday evening and perform in the gallery during our Friday Happy Hour. Covid knocked all that out. We have to build that back better.”

He says that he was always drawn to photography. “It was my yoga when I was in high school and when I started selling my prints, it has been my journey since that time.”

Why Social Justice Work?

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ESTHER BlogThe question was asked of me, “Why do I involve myself doing justice work?” I think the beginning of my addressing systemic causes of injustices began when I found ESTHER – or was it ESTHER finding me? Even before ESTHER, values that formed me within led to my belief that my dignity can never be fully realized until the dignity of all including creation is respected and honored as well. Where did that come from? I wonder if it was not so much anything that I was taught but rather something that I caught.

What is Our Duty in the Face of the Pandemic?

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Contributed by Joyce Frohn

The Pandemic has Brought Face to Face with Things We Were Not Used To

It has been a year since the Pandemic hit the US. We have all missed birthdays and holidays. Many have lost loved ones and friends. We have stared at fear, loneliness, and pain. We have learned Zoom, begged for shots and tried to wrap our brains around a terror that we thought was dead. Children have started school on computers, teens have graduated from high school on video, a thousand milestones small and large have come and gone. Some of us have battled loneliness and others have had suddenly crowded houses. We have tried to work from home while trying to remember high school geometry or desperately tried to support a family with less pay. Maybe we missed a long-awaited family trip or a just a quiet walk through a museum. Or a funeral of those we loved.

We have had many emotions that we are not used to. We have anger that those we trusted have betrayed us; that strangers would rather brag about their rights than save other people. That we have been lied to. We have sorrow at levels our modern world is not used to. We had thought that there were not going to be any consequences, no penalties. We declared we had conquered nature. Hopefully we have learned a lesson.

What Lesson Must We Learn?

Community and ESTHER Connections

Contributed by Kathy Weinhold

When I initially joined Esther it was at the recommendation of someone who attended my church. My initial interest was in the prison justice reform group, and I eventually became aware of the Oshkosh ESTHER group. As I live in Oshkosh, I decided to check it out, and I’m so glad I did!

At the first Oshkosh ESTHER group meeting I attended I was warmly welcomed. Compared to the large prison reform group, this smaller-sized group appealed to me. Each person in the group was able to share their ideas, comments and concerns all along the way in the process of working through issues.  At subsequent meetings I found it’s always that way.  The folks recognize that everyone brings something different to the table.  We all know it’s often who you know, and among them they have great connections.  Everyone’s input is greatly encouraged.

Sponsor Spotlight: The Cozzy Corner

The Cozzy Corner 2021 Yearbook AdInterview with Phillip Bennett: Co-owner of The Cozzy Corner

ESTHER wishes to recognize Phillip Bennett and his wife, Heidi, proprietors of The Cozzy Corner, a soul food restaurant in downtown Appleton. 

Phillip and Heidi purchased The Cozzy Corner about a year ago from their friend Tasha. It is one of many businesses that they own and manage. They also own a clothing store in the Fox River Mall, a barber shop and multiple properties in Appleton.

Phillip has a long and accomplished history in the Fox Valley. After his early release from prison in 2008, he moved to Appleton, obtained a machining degree from Fox Valley Technical College and began work at Neenah Foundry. During his ten years of employment there,  Phillip was promoted to supervisor, making him the first Black man hired as a supervisor at the foundry.  

ESTHER Applauds Governor’s Budget for Prison Reform

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Contributed by Bill Van Lopik.

On February 14, Governor Evers released his proposed state budget for the next two years. This biennium budget actually contains significant funding increases for prison reform programs that ESTHER and WISDOM have been fighting for over the years. We know that the Joint Finance Committee can amend the budget and make changes, but we are pleased with what we see so far. We also know that on average across the nation that 85% of what a governor proposes actually stays in the budget.

What we are pleased about:

  • An expansion of the Earned Release Program, which allows inmates early release from prison when they complete assigned programming. This could potentially allow 900-1000 individuals to be released early.
  • An increase in funding of almost $8 million in the Transitional Jobs Program over the next 2 years. This program provides employment opportunities for recently released individuals so they can begin developing their employment portfolio and integrate back into the community.
  • An increase from $7 million to $15 million to fund Treatment and Diversion programs to help keep people out of jails and prisons and have them enrolled in community-based treatment programs.
  • An expansion of ATR (Alternatives to Revocations) programs that are designed to not send people back to prison (a revocation) without committing a new crime. Another way of “decarcerating” our prison system.

Madison Action Day

Madison Action Day is coming up on April 15 and will be the perfect time to let your legislators know that we want the funding for these programs to remain in the state budget.

 

New Book: A Spirituality for Doing Justice

WISDOM

David Liners, WISDOM organizer, recommends this new book on the spirituality of community organizing.

Rev. Dennis Jacobsen, one of the founders of MICAH and WISDOM, and long-time pastor of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, has written a wonderful new book, called A Spirituality for Doing Justice: Reflections for Congregation-based Organizers (Fortress Press, 2021). In just a few pages, Dennis Jacobsen draws us into a world of graceful art, of brutal inner-city realities and the Children of God who battle them, of majestic nature, of family, Church, politics, and the inscrutable God who calls us deeper into mystery through all of it. Jacobsen enters each of these realms with humility and a sense of awe, and he models a deep spirituality that is transcendent, incarnational, and deeply authentic.

The book is beautifully written, and immensely practical for those of us who are striving to nurture a “spirituality for doing justice.”

The book can be ordered from your favorite bookstore. Or, you can order it on-line from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Better World Books, ThriftBooks, AbeBooks, etc.

Sponsor Spotlight: Fox Cities Errands and More LLC

By Jill Smith

Fox Cities Errands and Property ManagementAlvin and Amanda Brown are the husband-and-wife proprietors of Fox Cities Errands and More LLC, a local business serving homeowners of the Fox Valley. Together, Alvin and Amanda help people maintain their homes by offering gutter cleaning, landscaping, snow removal, errands, and a variety of other services.

Their business, which was established in 2018, was created because of a need that Amanda realized when she worked in an assisted-living facility. She heard many stories from residents who were no longer able to live in their homes because they could no longer get themselves to the store or keep up with the house maintenance.

Amanda says that Alvin does all the talking and all the labor. He says, “Our business is going awesome. We never felt the hit during the start of the pandemic like other companies [did]. Amanda saw the need. She told me that maybe we can help these people stay in their homes. This is how the business started. After that, we noticed that people needed other things done, so we expanded.”

ESTHER Yearbook Cover: The Rest of the Story

Roger Kanitz, whose painting “Loving Hearts Soar” graces the cover of ESTHER’s 2021 Yearbook, shares this explanation of how the image came to be.

Loving Hearts SoarLast fall, ESTHER board member and banquet committee member Sara Companik approached me about developing a painting for the cover of ESTHER’s 2021 Year Book. Her challenge for me was to create an image to support the selected theme of “Voices for Justice”.

This proved to be a great challenge! I found it hard to convey in a single image all of the great work ESTHER does to promote justice in our community. Symbolically I wanted to interweave the image with the ESTHER logo itself. The final result is entitled “Loving Hearts Soar.”

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