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Building community, sharing hope, and standing for justice since 2004

Equity and Racial Justice Committee Update - June 2020

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White Fragility CoverEquity and Racial Justice Committee leads ESTHER toward becoming antiracist

In an ongoing effort to make ESTHER an antiracist organization, board members are continuing our self-education by reading and discussing the book, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo.

Because this topic is so important and the idea of White Fragility is so challenging, board members have divided into “e-small groups,” each meeting for three 90-minute sessions (digitally) for self-reflection and discussion. These groups are being facilitated by Jennifer Considine, chair of Oshkosh ESTHER and chair of UW-Oshkosh Communications Department; ESTHER Organizer Bill Van Lopik; and two members trained by Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities: Connie Kanitz, chair of ESTHER’s Transit Task Force, and Penny Robinson, Co-Chair of the Equity and Racial Justice Committee.

Another step in this direction is an upcoming pilot program in which three board members will participate in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), facilitated through Common Talks with Marijke van Roojen. This pilot is being supported financially by a special gift. The IDI is:

… a valid and reliable assessment of an individual or group’s ability to engage effectively with others across difference. The IDI is based on Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) and research conducted by Mitchell Hammer. The inventory has been used successfully since 1998 in corporate, academic and other settings to focus individual coaching and action-planning, to guide multicultural team development, and to conduct program evaluation and research.

It is expected that after the results of this pilot effort are evaluated, ESTHER will be looking for additional funding to widen the availability of the IDI to all board members who would like to participate in it.

Members of the ESTHER Equity and Racial Justice Committee are Jennifer Considine, Gwen Gibson, Kathleen Gribble, David Haas, Penny Robinson, and ESTHER Organizer Bill Van Lopik. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month, at 10:00 a.m., by Zoom.

—Penny Robinson, co-chair

Justice for Kozee Decorah

Kozee Featherstone MontageAs part of their efforts to shine a light on missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW), our allies at Menīkānaehkem are asking for the support of ESTHER members and friends to:

  • Sign and circulate this petition regarding the murder of 22-year old Kozee Montana Featherstone Medicinetop Decorah. The petition asks that the charges against the alleged perpetrator be increased from manslaughter to second-degree murder, that five additional charges be added, and that he not be released on bail.
  • Contact the US Attorneys assigned to the case by mail, email or phone (contact info at Read more below) to urge that the charges be modified.

Why are we asking? On May 15th, 2020, Kozee Decorah celebrated her 3-month sobriety anniversary and was working hard to move back home to Wisconsin in the coming months. The very next day she was murdered in Winnebago, Nebraska, by her fiancé, Jonathan Daniel Rooney, who then mutilated her body.

On June 1, 2020, Rooney was charged with MANSLAUGHTER OCCURRING IN INDIAN COUNTRY for the death of Kozee Decorah – a minimal charge given the severity of the killing and the subsequent mutilation of her body.

RVP Needs You!

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Empower (MyRVP) logoWisconsin’s April 2020 primary shows what a difference the turnout of informed, motivated electors can make in an election. Some reports indicate that “Relational Voting” may have played a significant role in the outcome of that eletion. That’s why ESTHER is looking for leaders to participate in our Relational Voting Program.

What’s Relational Voting? Research has shown that people are more likely to vote if they have a relationship with someone who is encouraging them to do so.

It is easy to participate in the program, which requires only three simple steps:

  1. Download the “Empower (MyRVP)” app to your smart phone (Apple or Android). Then, register yourself to the Empower network (using your phone number or email address) and enter the code word “WISDOM.”
  2. Choose 20 names from the contact list on your phone and add them to the list in your Empower app
  3. Commit to contacting these people from time to time to remind them to vote in upcoming elections.

You are the only person who will ever contact these people about voting-related matters. Talking prompts will be sent to you to remind you to contact those on your list and suggest topics.

If you have questions, please reach out to Bill Van Lopik (billv@esther-foxvalley.org).

By participating in this program, you could possibly earn money for ESTHER as well as yourself. We have funding to pay up to 40 people $50 each if they follow through on this simple program.

How Wisconsin Communities are Meeting the “Last Mile Challenge”

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Date: 
Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Location: 
Zoom Webinar

Sponsored by Coalition for More Responsible Transportation in Wisconsin.

Join us as we explore different transit systems in key Wisconsin cities. You'll hear from different individuals on the ease of using public transit in select cities and how these communities are addressing the “Last Mile Challenge,” or the challenge in completing the last segment of a transit trip in order to reach one’s final destination. Discussion and feedback will follow the presentation.

RSVP here to receive the Zoom link.

Help Casa Esther Support Immigrants and Their Families

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The Federal government’s distribution of funds under the C.A.R.E.S. Act—in the form of stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, and other assistance—provides a financial lifeline for many, but not all, who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One group of people who need this assistance desperately are not eligible for Federal COVID-19 help. These immigrants live in our communities, contribute to the economy, and pay taxes. These men and women work on dairy farms, in meat-packing plants and cheese factories, in restaurants and cleaning services, in non-profits and small businesses through the Fox Valley.

Casa Esther, a Catholic Worker House in Omro, and an ESTHER member, was established in 2010. It works with a large network of Spanish-speaking people, providing support, education, and financial assistance in the Oshkosh-Omro area. In the last few weeks, using funds contributed to it by concerned Fox Valley residents, it has been able to distribute over $4,500 to people in need and to provide needed information and referrals to other agencies in the Fox Valley.

Contributions in support of this project may be sent directly to Casa Esther at 320 N Webster Ave, Omro 54963. Or make your donation by visiting Casa Esther’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CasaEstherOmro.

How Highway Expansions Undermine Public Transit, Walking and Biking

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Date: 
Thursday, May 28, 2020 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Location: 
Zoom Webinar

Bus seats seen from floor levelSponsored by Coalition for More Responsible Transportation in Wisconsin.

Speakers include Beth Osborne from Transportation for America and Dennis Grzezinski on highway expansion and transit issues in LaCrosse.

Policymakers often present costly highway expansions as a critical solution to gridlocked traffic and unsafe roadways. But decades of evidence show that building bigger roads makes congestion worse. We also know that highway expansions negatively impact public health and safety, disproportionately harm low-income and minority communities, and undermine alternative forms of transportation in a variety of ways. Learn from expert presenters why bigger, wider roads won’t solve Wisconsin’s transportation problems.

RSVP here for Zoom link: https://forms.gle/MXo9uLByjrr3fUQX8

Read more about the event on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/173240474022207/

Seeding Our Future: MMIW Solutions for Wisconsin

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Date: 
Monday, May 18, 2020 - 3:00pm
Location: 
Zoom Webinar

This series of webinars is dedicated to finding solutions for missing and murdered indigenous women within Wisconsin through indigenous-led grassroots movements and collaboration across systems.

The same program will be offered at 3 different times, limited to 100 participants each:

Date  Registration Link
Monday, May 18, 3:00 pm https://bit.ly/2KRwomm
Friday, May 22, 6:00 pm https://bit.ly/2Sslis3
Saturday, May 23, 2:00 pm https://bit.ly/3f4XlRv

Topics discussed:

  • Strategic plan for MMIW-WI and feedback from tribal communities
  • Indigenous-led data
  • Toolkits for local efforts

Panelists:

  • Chris McKinney, Director of Government Affairs, Wisconsin Department of Justice
  • Pam Johnson, AIAA (American Indians Against Abuse)
  • Shira Phelps, Crime Victim Services, Wisconsin Department of Justice
  • Kristin Welch, MMIW Women's Leadership Cohort - Menīkānaehkem
  • Dr. Joseph Robertson, Mato Ohitika Analytics

Contact kwelch@menomineerebuilders.org with questions or concerns.

Become a Monthly Sustainer: Our Work Takes Time …

Bringing justice and equi­ty to our society will not happen overnight, or even in a year or two.

We love “quick wins” as much as anyone … but in our work toward systemic change, they are few and far between.

For example, Oshkosh Common Council’s February 2020 decision to fund free busing for Oshkosh Public School students came about only after a sustained campaign over more than four years by ESTHER Oshkosh and other groups. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing the fault-lines in our society into even sharper relief, and it seems the globe will be dealing with the virus’s effects for years.

ESTHER has shown that it has the ability, working within networks and alongside partners, to bring about important, needed change. It is even more important in these times for us to be able to main­tain our effort over the long haul. That is why we need a de­pen­dable fi­nan­cial base.

Monthly Sustain­ers pro­vide fund­ing we can count on for the long run … through automatic month­ly con­tri­bu­tions (of $10 or more) from their check­ing or savings account.

We invite you to become a Monthly Sustainer of ESTHER. Just download this form, fill it out, and mail it to ESTHER, PO Box 784, Neenah, WI 54957.

Thank you!

Sacred/Scared

The ESTHER board gathered on March 12 for what will probably be its last in-person meeting for several months. These meetings always start with an opening reflection intended to help members keep their focus on ESTHER’s larger purpose and not get lost in “administrivia.” We are pleased to share with you now what ESTHER President Gary Crevier shared with the board at that time. We hope it may be of help to you in these times as chaos spreads and the temptation to worry climbs.

When our approach to life comes from an attitude of being scared, without hope, we fail to see the sacredness of creation and everything in the cosmos. That includes you and me.

Notice that the only difference between the words sacred and scared is the interchanged positions of the letters c and a, sacred/scared.

I would suggest that a in the word sacred stands for awesomeness, awareness, acceptance and art-filled presence in all of us, creation, the cosmos; and the c in the word scared stands for cowardliness, contempt and a cynical outlook on life.

So what if now, given the presence of the COVID-19 illness, we “flip the script,” so to speak, and live our lives more as sacred and filled with hope, instead of being scared? Let’s do what we can to confront this crisis, like self-distancing, touching of elbows rather than shaking of hands, sneezing into our elbows or simply avoiding crowds. Regardless of the outcome, it's the right thing to do.

May you be richly blessed in patience and hope during these uncertain times.

Your Contribution Helps Us Share Hope

Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that if we work hard enough together, we can make things better!”

—Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Knowing the difference between optimism and hope is critical now, as we struggle to contain the surging pandemic and take down the racist systems our nation has built. The number of those infected and killed by COVID-19 continues to grow. The adverse economic impacts mount. All the while, the inequality and division in our nation – signs of what Frederick Douglass called “a virus that infects the soul” – must be challenged!

Optimism fades in the face of these challenges, but hope rises, lifted by faith in what we can do together. Sharing hope, along with building community and standing for justice, are central to ESTHER’s mission. Read more to learn about our work, and how your support can help us share hope….

Help Us Share Hope