Youth Undoing Racism, Westchester County

Sorry it has been a while since my last update folks.  A lot has been happening in the organizing, especially since Hurricane Sandy.  I am so impressed by all of you and your ability to come together and support each other during such a challenging time.

For now, I’d really love to go back from a moment to October, and an AMAZING organizing event that happened in Westchester, NY.

(Feel free to scroll down and check out pictures from the event, an earlier post)

Lead organizers David Peters and Cyndi Carnaghi brought together 55 participants for a Youth Undoing Racism Workshop.  As I am sure you are all thinking- this is a HUGE deal!  David even said that this was an SAT weekend for some youth in Westchester, making this number incredible!

Cyndi and David focused their efforts on kids who had some involvement with DSS, as well as doing outreach to local High Schools, organizing with career center programming there.  The result was a 3 day workshop with youth, parents and local businesses collaborating to educate and inspire these young people.  Because of such great attendance and the participation of 6 URW trainers, participants were split into two classes for more in depth discussions and reflection.

Upon completion of the workshop, a number of these amazing youth decided to continue organizing by beginning a 13 week session follow-up.  They have been meeting on Mondays for 90 minute group sessions where they have the opportunity to practice and gain anti-racism organizing skills through lecture, group work, film and activities.  Topics they have been or will be looking into include: housing, law enforcement, education, their personal schools, political processes, and the prison industry.  What I find particularly appealing about this endeavor is that these sessions are youth-led, giving these youth the opportunity to research, develop and lead their own work.  Adult organizers who attend serve as mentors, rather than facilitators, so that youth can feel empowered and take ownership of their powerful learning and leading.

The goal of these sessions (get ready for this, because it is so awesome) is to use the work done by this committed group of young organizers to come up with a draft curriculum for a Freedom School.  This school would be associated with URW, and would be a space for youth to be exposed to social justice organizing in an ongoing way.  This Freedom School would be modeled after one already in existence, the Tyree Scott Freedom School in Seattle, WA.  Dustin Washington and the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker organization) have created and held this Freedom School for over a decade, and provide an excellent archetype for creating one right here in Westchester county.

To read more about the Tyree Scott Freedom School, this is one of the only times I would recommend using Wikipedia.

As if all this wasn’t enough excitement and cause for celebration, there is one more deeply compelling piece to this story of hope.

Although these EXTRAORDINARY youth organizers and their parents, David and Cyndi, and the workshop facilitators were the primary participants in the 3 day workshop, I was deeply moved to learn that this workshop existed largely through a staggering amount of community support.  These organizations provided financial support, as well as collaboration for advertising.  In the case of The Bethesda Baptist Church where the workshop was held, the meeting space was donated free of charge.  And AJ’s Burgers and Neil’s Cafe? Well they donated lunch for both days of the training- for free!  I couldn’t believe how much the community of New Rochelle, and greater Westchester County, were not only willing to get on board here, but really pitch in and help.

In gratitude for their collaboration:

The Westchester Department of Community Mental Health

The Department of Social Services

The Guidance Center of Westchester

The Businesses of New Rochelle

The Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle

AJ’s Burgers & America’s Favorite Foods, New Rochelle

Neil’s Cafe, Caribbean and Soul Food, New Rochelle

All in all, this workshop is awe inspiring.   It shows the power of community collaborations and support, intergenerational wisdom and sharing, and youth coming together to change the world.  This is one of the most exciting organizing initiatives I have seen, and I can’t wait to see what happens next for them.

For more information about this initiative, or if you would like to get involved, please visit the Youth Undoing Racism Westchester County facebook page.

Congratulations to you all– this is STELLAR!!!

Westchester Youth Undoing Racism

Westchester Youth Undoing Racism

Youth on a Mission

Undoing Racism YOUTH Workshop

Upcoming post about an AMAZING workshop that happened this month in New Rochelle–Youth Undoing Racism!!!

Youth of Westchester
New Rochelle/Mount Vernon
October 5-7, 2012
Friday, Oct. 5, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 6, 9:30 AM – 7 PM
Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 PM – 5 PM
Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle
71. Lincoln Avenue
New Rochelle. New York 10801
40 youth were registered…60 showed up! The youth were divided into two groups, and local PISAB trainers came and offered two simultaneous workshops. David Peters and Cyndi Carneghi are the lead organizers, with an OVERWHELMING amount of collaboration and support from the community!  More details about this AWESOME event soon!
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A conversation with Alan Siskind

Last week I chatted with Alan Siskind.  Alan has a doctorate in social work, and although he retired about 5 years ago from an executive position in human services (and by retired I mean now he only works part-time in private clinical practice…only, haha), he has never retired from his work to end institutional racism.

Alan spent a good portion of his career working as the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, where he had the opportunity to work alongside Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R, who was the Assistant Executive Director for the same organization.  Along with the JBFCS current CEO Paul Levine and many other dedicated JBFCS staff members, Mary and Alan worked hard to diversify their professional staff.   And although they had a great amount of success in this endeavor, they felt strongly that the disease of racism went far deeper into their work in human services; it is, in fact, a systemic, structural issue.

[To read more about the work being done at JBFCS on racism: What is COR (Confronting Organizational Racism)? ]

In response to this, Mary and Alan began a comprehensive approach to ending institutionalized racism in social services.  It is clear to Mary, Alan and their comrades that racism not only adversely effects the lives and livelihoods of people (both whites and people of color) working within their agencies, but also and perhaps more dramatically, racism is creating unbelievable tragedy and oppression for their clients.

Mary and Alan continue to work together in the Antiracist Discussion for Human Service Educators, Practitioners, Executives and Managers community alongside some other fantastic professionals.  Alan agreed completely with Mary’s previous sentiment: the truly profound accomplishment of this group is their commitment to keep coming back to meet with each other, and in going out into their communities and doing this work everyday.  Alan also adds that he has been moved by the ability of the group to provide meaningful support to each other.  He shared that the the group is a wonderful mixture of social workers and agency directors, people of color and whites; a really diverse group of collaborators.  A support group for those in the fight to end institutional racism, and a space for all people to come and talk about their experiences with racism, to add new perspectives and approaches to the work.  Alan said he is excited to gain new views and knowledge every time he attends, no matter how many years he participates.

[For more information on this group, or to attend one of their meetings, please go to the ARA meetings calendar: Monthly Meetings]

Alan also had some exciting information to share in regard to a collaboration between Dr. Alma Carten, Mary and himself on editing an in-progress book from the field…but I am going to wait to speak to this until I have a conversation with Alma (Professor Alma Carten), another impressive Social Worker and lead editor for the project.

For now, I just want to reverberate Alan’s message: if you are in the field of human services, and you are looking for a way to get connected and have support in your anti-racist work, please come and participate in their meetings.  They meet every 1st Monday of the month from noon until 2pm at JBFCS (135 West 50th Street, Between 5th and 6th, 6th floor), and you can (and should for entry purposes) rsvp by letting Mary or Alan know.  Mary can be reached at mlpenderg@gmail.com /212-245-2510, Alan at asiskind2@gmail.com.

“Racism is like alcoholism. It takes over our minds and ultimately effects our physical and mental health. While, like alcoholism, racism isn’t really cured in any of us, and the best we can do is be in recovery, we can by confronting our own participation in racist structures, begin a healing process for communities of color and ourselves.”

Thanks for your work Alan, and for using your career and now free time to invest in our communal recovery.

Gather at the Table Potluck

Last night was a stellar evening for organizers at a Potluck held at the Community Church of NY.  Authors Sharon Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf shared excerpts from their new book with those in attendance.  The book, Gather at the Table, is a collaborative effort between the pair, who formed a very unique and intentional friendship.  Although I was unable to be there myself, I have heard the experience was heartwarming and inspirational– attendees have said they left with a greater sense of humanity, hope and with an end to racism in sight!  Deep gratitude to Sharon and Tom for sharing their story with the rest of us!

Two people—a black woman and a white man—confront the legacy of slavery and racism head-on 
Thomas DeWolf—a descendent of slaveholders—and Sharon Morgan—a descendent of slaves—come together to openly discuss how the legacy of slavery and racism has impacted their lives. Together, they disclose the various difficulties and rewards they experience as individuals striving to heal. Gather at the Table is a timely, candid, and deeply relevant book that offers an engaging model of restorative justice.

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Thank you Sharon and Tom!!!!

IMPORTANT LOCAL ACTION NEXT WEEK- October 23rd and 24th

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Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R

Last week I had the pleasure of connecting with Mary Pender Greene, one of the most pivotal agents of anti-racism work in NYC and another founding member of the Anti-Racist Alliance.  Mary is also an accomplished psychotherapist, relationship expert, executive coach and professional speaker.  As you might imagine, she has the potential to be one intimidating woman.  Luckily enough for me, she is also supportive, informative, gracious and kind.

Mary has 25 years of expertise in her multi-faceted field, during which she has accomplished amazing feats in the battle against racism, including working with others to found the Anti-Racist Alliance of NYC, and (according to her website) co-editing “Racism and Racial Identity: Reflections on Urban Practice in Mental Health and Social Services” and “Beyond Diversity and Multiculturalism: Towards the Development of AntiRacist Institutions and Leaders.” Mary also worked for the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, where she served as an Assistant Executive Director, and helped to found the organizations initiative to end institutional racism, Confronting Organizational Racism or COR.

Mary gave me some great news about the work she is doing.  Right now, Mary is teaching a course called Anti-Racism for Social Workers, a 3-credit class hosted at Stony Brook for its 2nd year, and starting in January she will be teaching it at NYU!  For more information about the course, please see this detailed course information.

Mary also started some awesome connections for me with other activists she is working with through the Anti-Racist Alliance.  Mary is a facilitator of the Antiracist Discussion for Human Service Educators, Practitioners, Executives and Managers team, and encouraged me to find out about the following projects:

- the ARA Media Team

-a National Association of Social Workers think tank re: impacting social work education

-getting Anti-Racist Education further into educational institutions in NYC

-Voices from the Field, a book project of stories about race from people in school social work settings

I will, going forward, speak with the various contacts Mary provided me with to learn more about the above work, starting with Dr. Alan Siskind (blog post to follow).

When I asked Mary what she considers to be the current accomplishments of her organizing groups, she said with gumption that it is a great success in her eyes that they are meeting regularly and all working hard to change things within their own organizations.  I think this is a powerful statement about real change–that is has to start within.  It comes from commitment to the cause and willingness to reflect that commitment through showing up, and living authentically in your own life and work.  I am really excited to have had this chance to talk with her, and to hear that her team is successfully meeting and taking steps toward transforming human services to an anti-racist approach.

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For information on how to get involved with the Antiracist Discussion for Human Service Educators, Practitioners, Executives and Managers team, or to attend a meeting:

When: 1st Monday of each month
Time: 12 Noon to 2PM Bring your lunch!
Where: Jewish Board of Family and Children Service
135 West 50th Street Between 5th and 6th
6th floor
RSVP needed to place name on list for security
If you are not able to RSVP call 212-582-9100 and press “0″ for operator and receptionist will give approval to come up.
Facilitators: Alan Siskind, Bob Schachter, Michael Stoller, Mary Pender Greene
CONTACT: Mary Pender Greene 212-245-2510 or mlpenderg@gmail.com
Consultant: David Billings, CORE Trainer PISAB, revbillinz@aol.com

Anti-Racist Alliance NYC Area

Anti-Racist Alliance NYC Area

Hey all.  I’m Devon, and I am interning for the Anti-Racist Alliance of the NYC Greater Metro Area.  It is a beautiful day here in NYC, mild and hazy so no squinting as I try to find my various stops this afternoon.  I hear it is going to rain eventually- maybe I’ll get a little shower to wake me up before classes this evening?

Sandy Bernabei (a co-creator of the ARA NYGMA) and I met this afternoon to discuss my current tasks for the movement.  Amongst other things, I am working on organizing a newsletter for the area, in hopes to help connect activists and organizers here to each other.  Sandy is verrrry excited!  She brought up a really creative idea- why not blog as I go–put up all the latest news I can uncover as I uncover it! This way, all you stellar social changers can get right to work with each other!

In the following weeks, months, or however long it takes me to put out the finished blog, I will be providing updates on what’s up within the organizing groups and individuals.

I invite anyone reading this blog to post support for all the awesome stuff happening in the world of anti-racist organizing here in the NYC area.  I would also LOVE LOVE LOVE to see individuals sharing their own work and personal stories that we might not know about–and kudos for getting things started on your own!

Alright folks, enjoy reading about the many anti-racist activities going on ’round here, and thank you all for being such positive change makers and gate keepers!

<3 Devon

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