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Noyes News, October 2010

Grantees     Noyes In Action


Helena Wong is CAAAV's new
Executive Director

CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities announced the result of its national search for an executive director – someone who had come up through its ranks, proven her leadership and demonstrated dedication to the community – Helena Wong.

Helena has been involved with CAAAV for 15 years, cutting her community organizing teeth as a CAAAV high school intern and later as one of its summer youth volunteers. She has a strong knowledge of the organization's work and a deep understanding of community organizing in the Asian immigrant, working-class community.


Helena joined CAAAV's Chinatown Justice Project as staff in 2003. Under her direction, CAAAV founded the Chinatown Tenants Union, which has grown to over 200 members and 2,000 supporters. She was involved in a number of campaign victories, including working with a citywide coalition on the landmark passage of New York City's Executive Order 120, a policy that mandates language access services at all city service agencies, and a number of successful building campaigns. Helena also represented CAAAV on the steering committee of the national Right to the City Alliance.

Change Champions in Community Organizing and Leadership

North Carolina Fair Share was one of two nonprofit organizations receiving the Center for Community Change's 2010 Change Champion in Community Organizing and Leadership award for its work on health care, economic justice, the environment and voting rights. This year NCFS led a statewide coalition that, as part of Health Care for America Now, played a pivotal role in securing national health care reform. In 2007, the organization launched and led a statewide coalition that won a four-year campaign to secure same day registration in North Carolina, which overturned a number of obstacles that had made it difficult for young people and others to vote. Accepting the award at the October gala was Lynice Williams, NCFS executive director.

ACLU Announces Jennifer Dalven As Director of the
Reproductive Freedom Project and
Louise Melling as Director of the Center for Liberty


Jennifer Dalven has been part of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project family for over a decade, six of which were as deputy director of the Reproductive Freedom Project. Jennifer's commitment to reproductive rights began in high school, when she was a peer educator at a local family planning clinic. Years later, she successfully argued the abortion rights case Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England before the Supreme Court. Jennifer has tirelessly litigated in courts across the country, winning important victories at the sate and federal levels.


Louise Melling, Jennifer's predecessor, is now the director of ACLU's Center for Liberty that includes the LGBT & AIDS Project, the Reproductive Freedom Project, the Women's Rights Project and the Program on Freedom of Religion & Beliefs. This new structure promises to fortify RFP's work in a variety of ways. It will strengthen its sex education work by drawing upon the LGBT Project's expertise in relationship and sexuality messaging; address religious refusals with insights from the programs on Religion & Beliefs and the LGBT Project; and broaden its work on women's health care by working collaboratively with the Women's Rights Project.

Kelley Weigel Appointed Executive Director

Kelley came to the Western States Center in 1993 as a youth organizer to participate in its year-long Advanced Leadership and Mentorship Program. She later became the director of WSC's Civic Participation and Political Power program. In September, Kelley transitioned from her position as associate director to become the Center's executive director.


Kelly's work has focused on community organizing in Oregon and included organizing ballot measures and candidate campaigns, as well as training and leadership development programs.

David Shuffler
From Youth Leader to Executive Director

Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice recently welcomed David Shuffler as its new executive director. YMPJ's mission is to rebuild the neighborhoods of Bronx River and Soundview/Bruckner in the South Bronx by preparing young people to become advocates for peace and justice. The departing founder and first executive director, Alexie Torres-Fleming, can feel extremely proud that the organization practices what it preaches – homegrown youth leadership. Alexie and David are unique leaders who come from the very neighborhoods where they continue their work with a dedication to, and passion for, social justice. (Right: David as a youth organizer.)

David was first introduced to the organization as a youngster when his parents placed him in one of its summer camps as a way to help keep him out of trouble. The experience whet his appetite for organizing other youth around environmental justice issues directly impacting their community. Years later, David returned to YMPJ as a youth organizer and then as an active member of its board of directors. Prior to joining YMPJ, David was the director of the Initiative for Neighborhood and Citywide Organizing at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

Grantee Updates

More than 18,000 people, representing 1,800 organizations, gathered in Detroit in July for the second United States Social Forum. Among them were delegations from 27 Noyes grantees, across all our priority areas, and embodying a rich diversity of ages, races, gender identities and cultures.

The days in Detroit were one milestone on the road to building an authentic U.S. peoples movement, connected to global social justice movements. Like the first USSF in Atlanta in 2007, Detroit worked to deliberately build connections, alignment and power for change. The process of building beyond Detroit was set in motion long before the opening parade on the city streets, and is already bearing fruit. Just a few examples:

People's Movement Assemblies: PMAs provided democratic spaces for formulating plans and resolutions for building a better world. More than 40 PMAs before the forum, and 52 in Detroit, brought together thousands of participants and generated dozens of resolutions and plans for action, many already underway. The preamble to the synthesis statement begins:

We can build a better world. Working together, we can create a world that respects the human rights of every human being, nurtures creativity and health, promotes unity, solidarity and peace, and uses resources in a way that protects the earth and affirms life.

National movement building: The USSF process has helped spawn and advance a variety of national movement formations, connecting local struggles to build connection, common understanding, and coordinated strategies and actions. For instance, hard work before and in Detroit led to the founding of a U.S.-based Climate Justice Now network, joining a growing chorus of international voices demanding bold action by national governments to address global carbon emissions in ways that further just solutions.


Impact on Detroit: The economic impact on Detroit did not go unnoticed. When a local newspaper blasted USSF participants as disruptive anti-business lefties, a group of small businessmen shot back citing the dollars generated in the distressed city by thousands of people paying for food, lodging and transportation. Work brigades helped generate seven new gardens and ten building murals, advanced progress on existing projects and helped seed plans for a progressive library and cultural center. Work together before and during the forum, say local anchor group activists, generated a new spirit of cooperation and collaboration among organizations, and "a feeling that we came out of Detroit with an "S" on our chests, a can-do spirit that is very important in a city like Detroit."

Clean Water - Not Dirty Drilling

"Clean" "natural" gas is neither, as the Oil and Gas Accountability Project has been pointing out for more than a decade. Gas extraction in shale formations made possible by combining horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing (or fracking for short) has to sit right beside deep sea drilling, and dirty tar sands oil in the pantheon of insane ways to get our fossil fuel fix, says OGAP, now a project of Earthworks. The process mixes millions of gallons of precious fresh water with a proprietary cocktail of toxics, injects it through the drinking water table and into the ground at a pressure that will fracture rock. After years of impacting land, water and lives primarily in the western U.S., the possibility of fracking has brought the gas rush to the Marcellus Shale Formation in the East, raising the specter of polluted water and ruined landscapes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and beyond.

Even if you never leave the big city, you could be affected, OGAP notes. The watersheds at risk provide drinking water for tens of millions of people in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York State - and yes, New York City. If you love New York (or just love someone who does, or for that matter love clean water anywhere), OGAP recommends watching Stand Up New York!, and then standing up and taking action.


Protecting communities' right to self-govern …

In August, Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields held a City Hall press conference to announce that he will be introducing a Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund-drafted ordinance banning corporations from drilling in the city – an all out ban, as opposed to just banning fracking, putting in place a moratorium like New York State, or seeking to regulate drilling (and thus allowing it to happen). Commenting on his legislative proposal, Shields stated,

Many people think that this is only about gas drilling. It's not – it's about our authority as a municipal community to say "no" to corporations that will cause damage to our community. It's about our right to community, local self-government. Councilman Doug Shields

Pittsburgh is also organizing with other communities seeking to stop the drilling.

… and protection goes larger than local


This year, CELDF, a Pennsylvania community-based organization working to stop corporate harms, was asked by an Ireland-based group to speak at its Dublin conference, Participation and Practice of Rights Project. After learning about CELDF's work, PPR asked Thomas Linzey, CELDF's executive director, to expand his trip to include a mini-Democracy School. "The School" descibed how local communities in the U.S. are using municipal ordinances to assert their rights. PPR is exploring how these new strategic organizing models can assist with their goal of creating a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights.

Adoption of CELDF's rights-based organizing approach is being used in Ecuador and Canada, and inquiries have come from Australia, England, Indonesia and Mexico.

Reproductive rights and justice grantees share issues and strategies

Critical Intersections: Reproductive and Economic Justice, a public education event sponsored by the New York Women's Foundation and the Barnard Center for Research on Women, was held in New York on Barnard's campus in September. This day-long conference included over a dozen activists that are part of a participatory research project, which includes the Groundswell's Catalyst Fund, the NYWF's Grantee-Partners for Reproductive Justice and BCRW. Local Noyes grantee-partners included, Brooklyn Young Mother's Collective, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice and Sistas on the Rise. These groups connect their issues and strategies to state and national advocacy efforts. One panel focused on systemic change at the intersection of reproductive and economic justice. Laura Flanders, founder and host of GRITtv moderated this informative session with presenters from National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. Together all of the groups are working to enable, expand, document and enhance the possibilities of creating reproductive justice. This collaboration produced a report, Reproductive Justice in Action, Volume 6, featuring details of each organization's work and how the reproductive justice framework is used to connect with other social justice activism. This report is part of the New Feminist Solution series.

Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production From Authentic Organic Agriculture

Cornucopia is calling for an end to factory farm abuses in organic agriculture. Its recent investigation reveals that industrial-scale organic egg producers with tens of thousands of birds are "gaming the system" by engineering their way around organic standards, which require the birds to have access to fresh air and sunlight, by providing tiny screened-in porches that can accommodate no more than five percent of the flock.

(Left) An organic henhouse with 18,000 birds has a concrete, enclosed and covered porch that counts as "outdoor access" on a farm in Pennsylvania that supplies Giving Nature Foods. Giving Nature Foods is actively working to provide more outdoor access to its laying hens. (Right) 36,000 birds in an aviary system in Wisconsin, supplying Chino Valley Ranchers. The hens also have access to an outdoor run. Photos courtesy of Cornucopia Institute

Cornucopia found that some producers did not even bother with such ruse. Instead, they referred to veterinarians' notes, which excused their hens from fresh air in the interest of their health! Check out Cornucopia's organic egg score card to learn if the truth about your eggs has been "scrambled."


Coalfield communities score victory

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and its allies have hit Big Coal where it hurts in the pocketbook to the tune of $45 million. In 2007, OVEC was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against Patriot Coal, a subsidiary of Peabody Coal, to prevent the discharge of toxic selenium in West Virginia's streams. The parties reached a settlement agreement, but the company did virtually nothing to clean up the pollution. When OVEC went back to court, the judge ordered the parties to reach a new agreement, but negotiations fell through. Federal Judge Charles Chambers, apparently, had had enough. He found Patriot Coal in contempt of court, ordered the company to clean up four discharge sites within two-and-a-half years and to provide the court with a letter of credit for $45 million to ensure the clean up, and announced his intention to appoint a special master to oversee the matter.

This will be the first time selenium is treated in this state, and it should be a lesson to both the Department of Environmental Protection and the coal industry that it must be treated. The results of this case clearly show that the cost of mining high-selenium coal seams exceeds the profits. - Margaret Janes, senior policy analyst for the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment.

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman and Southwings


Joe Lovett and Derek Teaney, lawyers from the center, had sued Patriot on behalf of OVEC and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. Selenium, a naturally occurring element found in many rocks and soils, is an antioxidant needed in very small amounts for good health. In slightly larger amounts, selenium can be toxic. It impacts the reproductive cycle of many aquatic species, can impair the development and survival of fish, and can damage gills or other organs of aquatic organisms subject to prolonged exposure. In humans it can cause deadly kidney and liver damage, as well as damage to the nervous and circulatory systems. In 2003, a broad federal government study of mountaintop-removal mining found repeated violations of water quality limits for selenium. The following year, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report warned of more selenium problems downstream from major mining operations.

The fifth anniversary of Katrina generated coverage ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, with too little of it reflecting an informed view from those most affected, many of them in communities reeling anew from the BP oil disaster. One of the exceptions to that lack was the investigative report by the Institute for Southern Studies, Learning from Katrina: Lessons from Five Years of Recovery and Renewal in the Gulf Coast ISS's team found that many of the problems exposed in the botched federal response to the storm – from breakdowns in disaster planning to a misguided and mismanaged recovery – have yet to be addressed in Washington.

What's more, says the report, these key flaws in federal policy will stall Gulf Coast rebuilding and put lives at risk in future disasters unless the President and Congress take action soon. Among the critical issues addressed in the study:

  • Poor disaster planning and response put thousands of Gulf residents in harm's way before, during and after Katrina. But after months of delays, FEMA is just now releasing its new disaster framework – and it still omits internationally-recognized standards for protecting storm victims.
  • Waste, fraud and abuse by private contractors hurt Katrina relief and recovery efforts and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Despite widespread calls for contracting reform, federal officials have yet to beef up contractor investigations and oversight that can prevent future scandals.
  • While most Gulf communities have turned the corner, the recovery remains fragile and uneven. Problems with affordable housing, schools and health care access are still big obstacles, and have been exacerbated by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and the BP oil disaster.


But the report also finds a bright spot from the last five years: a blossoming of community action, local leadership and civic engagement. This rising spirit of activism and advocacy has not only helped thousands of Gulf residents participate in the recovery, but it's also helped hold the government accountable and mobilized national support for Gulf renewal.


And there's the more recent Gulf disaster


ISS also is one of the few news sources not buying into the "oil is gone" spin circulating about the BP Deep Horizon explosion that gushed millions of barrels of oil into Gulf waters. Its investigation continues, including a sobering look at the growing Dead Zone that plagued the Gulf even before Katrina and BP. The story is far from over, and will continue.


Victory for Montana's Comprehensive Sex-Education Advocates!

NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, a member of the Montana Partnership for Sex Education, proudly announced the passage of the Helena School Board's Health Enhancement Curriculum. This curriculum includes a comprehensive sex education component, is LGBTQ inclusive, and will be instrumental in helping students make informed decisions regarding relationships and sexuality.


According to NPCM, the state has witnessed a steady increase in adolescent pregnancies and births over the last five years. This disturbing change comes after 14 years of steady decline. Simultaneously, there has also been a dramatic increase in sexually-transmitted infections. Concerned advocates in Montana, as in other parts of the country, link these rising numbers with the Bush Administration's policy to teach abstinence-only sex education, as opposed to comprehensive sex-education. Although the Obama Administration's attempt to eliminate federal funding for a range of abstinence-only education was not as successful as comprehensive sex-education advocates desired, teen-pregnancy prevention funds increased to include more of a focus on academic achievement, extracurricular activities and smarter life decisions.

Food justice is not just about food …
When organized food system workers confront injustice in their communities

The food system relies on the labor of immigrants at numerous points from farm to table, including the cutting floor of meat packing plants all over the nation. In Minnesota, the massive turkey processing industry provides Somali refugees with difficult and dangerous low-wage jobs. Meanwhile, Somali children, who are Muslim and Black, are provided a first-hand education about religious intolerance and racism during the course of their school days. Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Education launched a discrimination investigation into the St. Cloud school system. While that process was grinding on, leading to a year of this public school's inaction and ongoing harassment of Somali students, Somali food workers and their families made the decision to take action.


Organizer Garat Ibrahim, from the Center for New Community, worked with Somali community leaders and organizations to advance a united front to call for accountability from the school district. The group put up two of their own candidates for open school board seats in a late summer primary. Although the Somali leaders did not secure a place on the final ballot, their candidacy demonstrated that Somali parents are learning how the system works and are asserting their collective power - an extraordinary advance by a refugee community sinking roots in our nation's heartland.

They're Hot and Methodical!

The Food Chain Workers Alliance promotes solidarity, brings a systems lens to food worker organizing, and puts social justice front and center in the call for food system sustainability. The Alliance has come a long way in the past 12 months. Late last year, it hired Joann Lo, former co-director of Enlaces, to lead the emerging group. This year it formalized a committee structure, developed membership criteria, embarked on a research project in partnership with the Applied Research Center and finalized its website. Check out their content, videos and books, links, program updates, and features on different member organizations.

Making Equity Actionable:
Grassroots Leads USDA in Institutionalizing Change

The Rural Coalition and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund recently released A Time to Change, a 156-page report detailing how USDA program implementation can be improved to "remove barriers that reduce the economic capacity and the well-being of small, beginning, socially disadvantaged, and limited-resource farmers and ranchers, as well as landowners, farmworkers, and other low-income individuals, and rural and urban communities." The report is based on findings and recommendations surfaced through annual conversations, held since 2004, between community-based organizations (CBOs), serving socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and USDA personnel. Findings address a diversity of constituencies, including farm workers and beginning farmers, and cover 19 issue areas, ranging from renewable energy to the National Animal Identification System. USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack called for this report to be used "to ensure that programs are delivered equitably, and that access is afforded to all constituents, with particular emphasis on socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and other constituents."

The following is a compilation of excerpts from the report's preface and introduction made with permission from the authors:

For the CBOs, this has been a very long journey, in some cases dating back many decades. Since 1993, and especially in 1996 and 1997, the CBOs as a group have approached USDA to seek systemic change. The CBOs made significant contributions to the development and implementation of the 1997 Civil Rights Action Team report and the Small Farms Commission's report. Changes of administration, farm bill debates, and the necessity to seek court action were important phases in this work and the CBOs evolution. In 2003, USDA's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) was established as a result of a provision in the 2002 Farm Bill strongly supported by the CBOs. OASCR worked with the CBOs to initiate innovative strategies to open dialogues with small, limited-resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and other underserved communities. These strategies included listening sessions with African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and American Indian organizations in the communities where members of those groups lived and worked, across the United States. Most recently, the CBOs, through the Farm and Food Policy Diversity Initiative, were able to secure language in some 30 sections of the 2008 Farm Bill aimed at equity and structural change. For instance, the Farm Bill includes provisions to help Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (SDFRs) restore and preserve their communities' land, reduce loan accelerations and foreclosures on farms, and which improve, expand and add set-asides in order to ensure access by SDFRs. The bill also strengthens tools that ensure equitable access to USDA programs and provides for settlement of ongoing civil rights claims; expands food security, nutrition education, and other assistance; and increases support for the CBOs who represent SDFRs and farmworkers in USDA grant programs. The release of this long-awaited report is the culmination of this long journey.

Noyes In Action

What the Staff's Been Saying and Doing

Kolu Zigbi, Program Officer for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, organized and facilitated a funder briefing in October, Framework for Food Justice, hosted by the North Star Fund, to explore the challenges facing funders interested in strengthening local and regional food economies while building the movement for social justice. They asked, How can we support a more sustainable food system that does not perpetuate the racial and economic inequities that characterize our food system today?

Also in October, Kolu moderated Successful Food Hub Models at the Harvard Club, organized and sponsored by the 1772 Foundation with assistance from the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders. Nearly 50 people joined in the dialogue. The Noyes Foundation extends its appreciation to the 1772 Foundation for transforming what was originally to be a briefing for trustees into a field-building experience for many. For readers not yet familiar with the term, a "food hub" is a system for aggregating and distributing food from small- and mid-sized family farmers, enabling them to reach institutional buyers, like restaurants, schools, hospitals and stores. The hub can include a variety of value-added features, from processing equipment to retail space. In the last three years, the number of food hubs has increased dramatically, and funders and USDA are increasingly interested in the roles they can play in distributing locally-grown foods within a region.

Kolu participated in a Transformative Leadership Program, held by Social Justice Leadership. This training for self-identified social justice funders offered an opportunity to: more consciously identify default tendencies; develop capacity to act with intentionality; explore powerful practices for centering and body awareness; serve as, and be supported by, a peer coach; analyze the field of social justice philanthropy; envision its expansion and greater effectiveness; and name goals and commitment to actions to move toward that vision. This experience has left Kolu with much food for thought, a new commitment to create time for planning and reflection, and a new network of fantastic colleagues committed to increasing support for social justice movements.

Millie Buchanan, Program Officer for Toxics and Environmental Justice, helped organize a series of conversations exploring how funders can increase support for the grassroots-organizing sector of the social justice ecosystem, as organizations and funders build on the movement-building momentum and cross-movement convergences created in the U.S. Social Forum process, and amplified in Detroit.


Wilma Montañez, Program Officer for Reproductive Rights, attended Western States Center's Community Strategic Training Institute this past summer when the organization celebrated its 20th year of tireless social justice work in the Northwest. Wilma was invited to speak to regional funders at a CSTI event hosted by the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation. This was a great opportunity to share information about how national funders can play an important role in supporting advocacy and organizing efforts in the Northwest.

Wilma attended the New York Women's Foundation's public education event, Critical Intersections: Reproductive and Economic Justice, this past September. She was joined by half a dozen funders, all members of the Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health and Rights' Women of Color Working Group. Tapping into participants' enthusiasm to learn more about how to use and promote the reproductive justice framework, Wilma shared information on how to access the recently completed Growing the Reproductive Justice Movement: A Toolkit for Funders. This toolkit was created by the Women of Color Working Group of the Funders Network.