HIGHLIGHTS: BUILDING A NET THAT WORKS, CELEBRATING ACCOMPLISHMENTS In the eleven years since the AntiRacist Alliance was initiated in 2001, “Undoing Racism” has become central to the way many human service organizations in the New York region understand their work. A broad multiracial, inter-generational group of antiracist leaders has emerged in the Northeast, rooted in the People’s Institute principles, organizing in the human services, educational, criminal justice, child welfare, health care and addictions communities. Meeting monthly for nearly four years, this collective of African American, Latino, Asian-American Native American and White organizers shares strategies, stories and information. To mark a decade of work in the NY metro region, this group organized a Great Convergence on November 12 when 300 antiracist activists, friends and family celebrated at the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem, acknowledging achievements and building community to sustain the work. In our organizing together we gain strength to heal and reach out to an ever-widening circle of colleagues, friends and fellow-activists. We know, in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “A Whole Lot of People is Strong.”
HISTORY AND OVERVIEW OF THE PEOPLE’S INSTITUTE TRI-STATE REGIONAL WORK The People’s Institute began its work in the New York region fifteen years ago, when Rockland County community activist Phyllis Frank introduced the Undoing Racism™ process to human service practitioners. At the same time, Rev. Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood, then senior pastor of St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn, began to infuse PISAB antiracist training in the church’s annual commemoration of The MAAFA.
In 2001, a collective of New York City- and Westchester-based social work educators and practitioners inaugurated an AntiRacist Alliance (ARA)1 “to transform social work practice” and undo structural racism in the field of human services. Since its inception, ARA has organized over 100 Undoing Racism™ workshops, changing the lives and work of over 6000 social work practitioners as well as faculty and students at NYC schools of social work. Dramatic evidence of this work was when Mental Health News devoted its entire winter issue to “Undoing Racism in Mental Health,” with articles by leading human service educators and practitioners from throughout the New York region.
Inspired by the work in human services, public and independent school educators throughout New York have continued to organize, first as an Educational Equity Alliance and in 2010, as the AntiRacist Alliance of Educators, bringing teachers and parents together to promote antiracist principles in their schools.
In 2011, the PI-Northeast leadership team2 met monthly with a core group of 30-40 antiracist organizers – including many who are preparing to be People’s Institute trainers - to deepen our analysis, strategize about opportunities for organizing and expand the antiracist base in our neighborhoods, professions, and institutions.
SUMMARY OF 2011 PEOPLE’S INSTITUTE NORTHEAST REGIONAL ACTIVITIES
Organized 30 Undoing Racism™ workshops3 reaching over 1000 people, which brings us to a total of 100 workshops offered this decade and reaching 6,000 workshop participants in our area. Workshop organizing was done in collaboration with the AntiRacist Alliances in New York City, Westchester and Rockland counties, Connecticut, New Jersey, as well as with newly formed Alliances in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Educators came together through NYCoRE – the NY Collective of Radical Educators, as in individual public and private schools and universities to develop strategies for creating antiracist cultures in their institutions. Public and private social service, child welfare, criminal justice and legal services organizations and schools of social work, including NYU, Columbia University and Fordham University, participated in training to bring an antiracist lens for change to these systems.
Undoing Racism in Child Welfare Group has been meeting since October, 2009, following the September 2009 PISAB-sponsored forum on racial disproportionality in child welfare. Comprised of parents effected by the system, reps from private agencies, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and the Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP), the Committee grew in strength, numbers and recognition for its contribution to grassroots leadership development and organizing. Through monthly meetings and speaker forums the group develops strategies for antiracist training, policies and practices in the NY child protective services systems. Its first retreat was held on Labor Day weekend and included parents who had been personally affected by the child welfare system; people working in the child welfare field; and Anti-Racist Alliance members. PI Co-Founder Ron Chisom joined to assist in developing a strategic plan on moving forward with our goals for systemic change.
Held monthly People’s Institute Leadership Development sessions with 30-40 antiracist organizers to strengthen our analysis of racism and broaden and sustain our organizing efforts by building a “net” that “works.”
Increased discussion and organizing options for graduates of the Undoing Racism workshop™ - With addition of the AntiRacist Alliance of Educators for public & independent school parents & teachers last year, and the White AntiRacists and two New Jersey AntiRacist Alliance discussion groups in 2011, there are now 19 different discussion and organizing opportunities each month in fourteen locations throughout the region, including one for human service executives in NYC, plus others in Manhattan, Westchester & Rockland Counties.
Men of Color Undoing Racism Collective was a force for community transformation, organizing jointly with the Women of Color an Undoing Racism™ workshop for People of Color, and hosting monthly meetings with presentations by leading activists, community leaders and researchers. Among the featured presenters were Pedro Noguera, Executive Director of New York University’s Metro Center, Eddie Ellis, Program Director of the Center for NuLeadership at Medgar Evers College, Quentin Walcott, Program Director of Connect Training Institute and Community Empowerment Program and Marlon Walker, Educator/CTI Coordinator.
Women of Color Undoing Racism Collective broke new ground in promoting community healing, transformation, empowerment and leadership development in organizing an Undoing Racism workshop™ for People of Color, sponsored jointly with the Men of Color Undoing Racism Collective. The organizing committee included Shadia Alvarez, Milta Cardona-Vega, Shelia Mabry, Shirley De Pena, Kristy Perez, Joan Adams, Alexis Howard, Athena Moore, Joseph Maldonado, Steve Stitt, Deacon K. Radcliffe, Akil Rose, Shane King, Jim Hill and Athena Moore.
Through the Isaiah Project, led by Deacon Kenneth Radcliff, People’s Institute principles of antiracist organizing were brought to a four week series on Racism and Mental Health for consumers, practitioners and community members in Harlem.
Inauguration of a White Antiracists which has met monthly and grown to include 35 white antiracist organizers working in human services, education, the arts and philanthropy. Building on the foundational work done by RAW, monthly meetings focus on relationship building, owning our white privilege and learning to develop methods to be accountable to People of Color within the PI NE antiracist organizing network.
Made over 40 presentations, including keynote speeches, on the importance of organizing to undo racism™. Presentations at conferences, public agencies such as Westchester Department of Social Services and NYC Administration for Children’s Services, as well as at hospitals, human service and human rights organizations, universities and churches and radio and television interviews, provided information and organizing assistance to thousands of professionals and service consumers throughout the region.
Sponsored monthly AntiRacist Potlucks, featuring writers, activists and artists from across the country describing how they use an antiracist lens in their work. A book-signing featured editors and authors of Accountability and White Antiracist Organizing, published in the fall by Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, Inc. People’s Institute Executive Director Ronald Chisom wrote the forward for this collection of stories of antiracist organizing across the U.S., which was edited by members of the People’s Institute Leadership Collective and others.
Provided ongoing technical assistance with human service, legal and educational groups including the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, Child Welfare Organizing Project, NYC Department of Education, NYC Administration for Children’s Services, Drug Policy Alliance and numerous schools and universities.
Celebrated with leading antiracist organizers in the community and in their field, including:
Ron Chisom, Co-Founder of PISAB, was honored by the Haymarket People’s Fund.
Kimberley Richards, Core Trainer with the People’s Institute, was honored by the Radical Social Workers Group in a celebration at the Brecht Forum.
Natania Kremer, LMSW, Director of Early Childhood Support Services and Administration at JBFCS, was celebrated as an Emerging Social Work Leader by the NASW-NYC Chapter.
Edwin “Eddie” Ellis, WBAI Radio Host and Program Director, Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, Medgar Evers College, was honored in a program enitled “From Attica to Abolition” at Harvard Law School.
The birth of Darius to Joseph and Laura; the marriage of Jonathan and Shirley.
1 The AntiRacist Alliance was founded in Westchester County by Sandy Bernabei, George Cohen, Jane Edwards, Gail Golden, Barbara Maier, Nancy Petchek-Kohn, Sandy Shein, and Sioux Taylor. 18-months later, the NYC branch was inaugurated by board members of the National Association of Social Workers–NYC Chapter and other social work leaders: Mimi Abramovitz, Cheryl Franks, Ella Harris, Mary Pender Greene, Marion Reidel, and Robert Schachter,
2 The original People’s Institute Northeast leadership team included Shadia Alvarez, Sandy Bernabei , Monica Dennis, David Billings, and Margery Freeman. The current leadership team is made up of Shadia Alvarez, Sandy Bernabei and Maurice Lacey, with regular input from People’s Institute national leaders including its Executive Director Ronald Chisom, David Billings, Diana Dunn, Margery Freeman and Kimberley Richards.
3 Including 14 AntiRacist Alliance-sponsored workshops in NYC, Westchester & Rockland Counties, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.; 2 social work student-organized workshops; one for youth; and workshops sponsored (one each) by the Men of Color and Women of Color Undoing Racism collectives. Other trainings were sponsored by NYC Administration for Children’s Services, the Calhoun School, the Birch Wathen Lenox School and Legal Services of NYC.
2011 Annual Report: The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond – Northeast Region