Insight from Xavier University Student Intern
Read insights on community organizing from Genevieve Hager, a CUFA summer intern from Xavier University.
Viewing and doing the impossible.
My grandfather once told my mother, "if it's impossible, it will just take a little longer to accomplish."
I hold this quote close to my heart not only because it was my grandfather who said it, but also because it has allowed me to do many things I never imagined myself doing.
This summer I received the privilege to be a Summer Service Intern and to work with Communities United for Action (CUFA), a multi-issue, grassroots group that believes in the power of people to change communities positively. My job was primarily door-knocking. I'll be honest, I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I showed up in May, but I was excited to see what the summer would hold. I was blessed with twenty new friends, a new love for social justice, and a work experience that has entirely changed my future.
While door-knocking is not the dream job of many, (if anyone at all), it is a job that I grew to love. Every day I knocked upon the door of someone who was experiencing racism, classism, prejudice, discrimination, homelessness or poverty, and they were willing to share with me how those injustices were impacting their lives.
The knowledge that our culture has grown to accept the oppression of certain groups within our society is not something that can be erased from my memory. This piece of knowledge has stuck with me, and made me contemplate why I was given the privilege when there are others suffering.
When I learned this, I thought, along with may of the other interns, "what can we do now?" We ended many of our conversations with a negative conclusion, with no real solid solutions, and little hope for the future. As I learned through working with CUFA, community organizing is the way to enact structural changes within our society. The changes you see through this work are very different from ones you would see through direct services. This work leads to building a more sustainable future for ourselves, and right now, I belive that is what we need most.
Another lesson I had the unfortunate experience to learn is the statement that "alone, we are powerless..." The places in our society that power is really important and those who hold it can make a difference, one person will not make an impact. It is easy for young college students to boast and say, "I'm going to change the world", as I once did. However, there is often little college students can truly do, except continuously imagine a better future.
Now, let me finish that statement above, "alone, we are powerless, but together, we can change the world." It is not enough to act alone; we must work together to change this world for the better. When I reflect back on this summer I can see now that every intern thought on their first day that the job they would be doing was impossible. All of us felt as though we weren't qualified enough to do the work we had been chosen to do. We all felt as though we were being tossed into the ocean, me especially. Community organizing? What's that? Door knocking? How am I suppose to do that? What am I suppose to say? How can I not make this awkward? Time was my only solution. I just had to do it until I figured it out and we gradually settled into routines that helped us grow each week and do even better work.
I never thought that I would know how to or be good at door-knocking. It seemed impossible, but it just took time.
I never thought I would love community organizing as much as I do. I never thought that it would impact me so greatly. But is has, and I am grateful.
It may seem impossible that within our lifetimes we will see any great changes within our society. But if I've learned anything over the summer it's that changes through community organizing take a while. Some campaigns take years, but it is not impossible.
I'll leave you with a quote I stumbled upon this summer. While I've said that we are powerless alone, don't ever doubt your ability to be the initiator of change. Don't ever think that just because you are only one person it won't be any good. Every change starts with just one person, and every little bit counts.
"I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about that ... then I realized, I am somebody!" - Lily Tomlin
CUFA Sponsored through the Charity Cincy Golf Ball Drop!
Buy a chance to win $10,000!! Support CUFA through the Cincy Charity Golf Ball Drop when Lucy the Pelican will drop 100,000 wiffle balls onto the UC Nippert Stadium! Five dollars can enter you to win $10,000 and a chance to win the grand prize of $1 million! CUFA's goal is to raise $6,000 and we need your help! When purchasing online, please choose our partner organization, Working in Neighborhoods as your existing team. CUFA will receive all $5.00 donated.
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Showdown in Ohio! CUFA tells Chase Bank to Fix Their Mess
On May 16, over thirty members of Communities United for Action traveled to Columbus to tell JPMorgan Chase shareholders, board members, and CEO that working families would no longer pay for the financial crisis created by Chase and other big banks. CUFA joined National People’s Action and other community groups and unions to build a vocal protest of 1,000 demonstrators outside Chase’s annual shareholders meeting. The rally commanded the attention of shareholders and media with towering 20ft banners and giant wooden puppets of Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. In a daring attempt to “steal from the rich, and give to the poor”, a group of demonstrators dressed as Robin Hood used a plywood bridge to cross a moat-like pond that surrounded the office building. Both county and city police armed with guard dogs and mace stopped the group as soon as they crossed onto the property.
In addition to the energetic display outside of the shareholders meeting, CUFA board member Mae Richardson and CUFA president Roger Davis addressed shareholders inside the meeting. The pair urged the company to make crucial changes to foreclosure and lending practices. Richardson told shareholders that Chase foreclosed on her family’s home and then abandoned the property without transferring ownership records. With her family still in legal possession of the house, Richardson was stuck with bills and fines from the city associated with the property that Chase had taken from her and then let fall into disrepair. Roger Davis also addressed shareholders during the meeting. Citing Chase’s foreclosure on 1,280 homes in Hamilton County since 2005, Davis said the foreclosures in Cincinnati made “ghost towns” out of neighborhoods. He urged bank leaders to modify mortgages and keep families in their homes. The Huffington Post interviewed both Richardson and Davis about their comments.
JPMorgan Chase and the Financial Meltdown
JPMorgan Chase directly contributed to the subprime mortgage scandal and the 2008 financial crisis that soon followed. JPMorgan Chase played a significant role by providing financing to the nation's two largest subprime lenders, Countrywide and Ameriquest; they gave the companies the capital needed to originate subprime mortgages. JPMorgan Chase was also heavily involved in buying and selling derivatives. Derivatives are a financial product that allows companies and consumers to bet on stocks, contracts, and importantly, subprime mortgages. The derivatives traded by JPMorgan Chase helped to spread and intensify the impact of the housing market collapse they financed. After the market collapse, JPMorgan Chase accepted taxpayer bailouts and backstops totaling $94.7 billion. Despite this, the company recovered fast, posting $17.4 billion in profits in 2010 and awarding its top executives almost $8.7 billion in bonuses.
JPMorgan Chase: Still Hurting Working Families
Unfortunately, JPMorgan Chase is not interested in investing its wealth back into the public. JPMorgan Chase has contributed to the “credit crunch” by decreasing their lending to small businesses. The company’s lending to small businesses fell by two-thirds between 2007 and 2009. JPMorgan Chase has also made it difficult for families to restructure their mortgages and avoid foreclosure. The bank started trial mortgage modifications for only 25% of its 417,341 borrowers who are eligible for the Obama Administration's Making Home Affordable Program. Chase has also been notorious for collecting payments during long trial modifications and then foreclosing on the property even in cases where the borrower makes all payments on time. This practice has made JPMorgan Chase the target of at least one lawsuit in San Francisco.
Instead of helping families avoid foreclosure or investing in small business, JPMorgan Chase has spent its taxpayer bailout lobbying against financial reform. The company has lobbied against the Consumer Overdraft Protection Fair Practices Act, the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act, the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009, the Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy Act, the Derivatives Trading Integrity Act, the Compensation Fairness Act, and financial services regulation in general. JPMorgan Chase is also part of the Financial Services Round Table, which worked to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act. The Employee Free Choice Act supports collective bargaining rights by ensuring that workers can exercise a free choice to form a union without interference or intimidation from management.
CUFA will continue to fight for fair lending practices and loan modifications through a new community action group called Invest in People. Invest in People is working to find new ways to balance the city and state budget without cutting funding to vital services such as mortgage counseling programs, health clinics, and recreation centers. To get involved, come to the Invest in People committee meeting on June 9th at 5:30pm at Mother of Christ Church in Winton Hills, or call CUFA’s office at 513-853-3947.
See below for more information from several different national news sources.
Health Department Does Study on Health Disparity
Study Shows Which Areas Have Highest Mortality Rates
Preventable Illness Among Leading Causes Of Death
A new report gives some perspective to the quality of life in various parts of Cincinnati.
Areas such as Price Hill and Avondale have higher mortality rates than areas such as Mount Adams and Hyde Park, according to the study conducted by the Cincinnati Health Department.
"If I'm living in Price Hill, then, yes, Price Hill is not doing that well in terms of mortality," said Dr. Noble Maseru, Cincinnati health commissioner. "The numbers are what they are."
Neighborhood advocates such as Marilyn Evans, of Communities United for Action, said they've been calling for a study like this one to underscore neighborhood disparities.
"We work in low- and moderate-income communities where the epidemic seems to be in great proportion and nobody listens," Evans said.
The two-year study looked at mortality rates between 2001 and 2007 in the city's neighborhoods, as well as the causes of death for each area.
The leading causes of death across the city were heart disease, cancer, stroke, lower respiratory disease and diabetes.
CUFA was the first organization to ask the Health Department for this study. Read the full story at http://www.wlwt.com/health/27375618/detail.html
Mourning the Loss of Frankie Ferguson
Frankie Ferguson, a long time activist and CUFA member, passed away on Saturday, March 26, 2011. Frankie devoted her life to her community and was a fierce advocate for tenant's rights, environmental justice, and youth. Frankie was a fixture in the community of Millvale, where she had been the President of the Tenant Council for years. Frankie's dedication to the youth in Millvale found her tirelessly lobbying to expand their access to education, employment, and gang prevention/reduction programs. Frankie was a leading proponent of expanding services and social programs aimed at gang prevention to younger age groups.
Frankie had been a leader with Communities United for Action since the 90's, chairing the tenant committee, serving on the Executive Board, and training new community leaders. Frankie's spirit, dedication, and kindness are irreplaceable to those who knew her. She will be greatly missed.
Services for Ms. Frankie will be held at Little Abraham's Church in Evanston with a viewing at 10:00am and funeral services beginning at 11:00am.
National People's Action
March 5th through the 7th, community leaders from Communities United For Action attended the National People's Action leadership conference in Washington D.C. CUFA leaders took action on issues involving financial reform, immigration, and foreclosure.
Pictures are available here.
Check out the website http://makewallstreetpay.org/ to learn more about NPA's campaign to hold banks accountable!
Environmental Justice Ordinance Support Letter
CUFA and other Environmental Justice organizations have not forgotten about the Environmental Justice Ordinance! Below is a letter sent to City Council members in support of the EJ Ordinance on behalf of CUFA and environmental organizations across the city. Let your city council people know that you support environmental justice and the EJ Ordinance!
February 9, 2011
801 Plum St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202-1979
We wish to express our sadness for the loss of former councilmember,
David Crowley, an ardent supporter of the Environmental Justice
Ordinance. We deeply appreciate his efforts that finally moved the
Ordinance to passage in the City after several years, and are
regretful that it has not been implemented.
Reordination of the ordinance is unacceptable. Proposed changes will
severely undermine the original ordinance such that it will eliminate
the majority of its purpose. Public notice would only go to people
within a scant one-quarter mile, and only after the permit has already
We urge the City of Cincinnati to continue exploring funding options
in light of the Ordinance’s minimal cost at $60,000, as has been
recently estimated by Larry Falkin, Office of Environmental Quality.
The Environmental Justice Ordinance is a necessity in the City’s
development of strategies that protect public health and the
environment. Cincinnati still suffers from dangerously elevated levels
of particulate matter and ozone that will only worsen with climate
change. Cumulative effects of exposure mean that citizens -especially
those with the least means- are at a higher risk for cancer and
Please reconsider the far-reaching positive impact the Ordinance can
have in Cincinnati. We urge your strong support for funding this
important work and continued efforts toward improving our environment,
public health and quality of life.
Marvin Kraus, Chair
ECO: Environmental Community Organization
Melissa English, Campaign Director
Ohio Citizen Action
Brad Mank, Chair
Environmental Advisory Council
Don Sherman, Executive Director
Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center
Melissa Currence, President
The League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area
Marilyn Evans, Executive Director
CUFA, Communities United for Action
Marilyn Wall, Chair
Sierra Club, Miami Group
Board of Directors
Ohio Alliance for People and Environment
(formerly Ohioans for Health, Environment and Justice)
Call Your Attorney General!
Call Your Attorney General and Tell Them “Bank Crime Shouldn’t Pay!”
If you missed the National Call-in Day on February 3, there is still time to call your Attorney General!
Are you sick of the big banks continuing to reap big profits from the damage they caused to our homes, families and communities? If so, join with thousands of people and call your state Attorney General to demand a strong and meaningful settlement against the big banks.
The nation’s 50 state Attorneys General are currently investigating the fraudulent mortgage practices of the big banks. The big banks are pressing for a quick settlement that will let them off the hook for their crimes and keep the process behind closed doors. We need to fight back and keep the pressure on.
Just a few minutes of your time will send a message to the Attorneys General that we’re watching their work closely and we won’t settle for anything less than deep penalties for the big banks and justice for millions of homeowners.
Attorney General Call-in Instructions
Call your Attorney General and tell them you want a strong settlement with big banks who committed fraud. Sample PHONE SCRIPT below:
“I am a resident of [STATE] and I am watching the foreclosure fraud investigation very closely. I want to make sure that the Attorney General reaches as strong a settlement as possible with the banks. The settlement must include principal reduction for millions of homeowners and imposes criminal penalties on those who broke the law.”
For more information and a full list of Attorney Generals and their contact information, visit www.crimeshouldntpay.com