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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.

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.

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