"Reverend David K. Brawley of East Brooklyn Congregations (a sister organization of WTJ) provided a keynote address that was informative as well as deeply inspiring. He shared about The Nehemiah homes built in East New York and in the Brownsville neighborhood and how “changing one block can make a difference, but one organization makes all the difference in the world.”
"Forty years ago, leaders got together and they built power – the regeneration of an entire community – where initially homes sold for about $40,000 are now worth $500,000. The power is with the people. We organized and one institution saved an entire community, and if we could do it forty years ago, you can do it today.”
The Mississippi Link asked Chevon Chatman for her impressions. “I’m pleased with the turnout and the energy and enthusiasm of WTJ members and guests here today. It speaks to the determination and resiliency of this vehicle and of this city to do what it needs to do to become a stronger Jackson. I am proud to be the lead organizer of Working Together Jackson,” she said.
Savannah Willis, an organizer at WTJ, said it like this, “I feel like there is a lot of energy in the city right now, and today was a reflection of that and seeing how it touches everybody despite our differences, despite our divisions – there is energy in this city to make a change.”
[Photo Credit: Chris Young, The Mississippi Link]
Working Together Jackson – WTJ: Refounding Convention and City-wide Assembly, The Mississippi Link [pdf]
....there was a moment when I had to fight back tears of rage as I listened to my son sobbing about an experience he had while playing with a white boy at a nearby park. The boy’s dad had seen the two together and called him over to tell him that he couldn’t play with Black kids. When my son tried to re-engage the boy, he told him what his father said. He was 7.
I was angrier than ever.
By this time, I had begun dealing with my anger through my broad-broad organizing with Working Together Jackson, the local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which engages in the building of power through institutions. Having returned to the South, I had started to understand my work as an organizer as a reckoning of sorts.
Indeed, I was here working to deal with the same evils that drove my family away from here long ago, “evils” that now present in the form of disinvestment in poor Black communities, failing to adequately fund public schools, failing to expand Medicaid (“because … Obama”), and other issues that keep Mississippi in last place.
State Flag: ‘Hell Did Not Freeze Over’
For 126 years, that evil was embodied in the state flag. And while many try to claim otherwise, indisputably, the battle flag has racist origins. It was a constant reminder of the collective pain, trauma and the systematic subjugation of Black people, my people.
So for me, bringing down the flag marks a new season for Mississippi. And it gives me a renewed sense of hope for Mississippi, because if we can do this now, so much more is within our grasp. When the votes came in on Sunday, I exhaled both literally and spiritually. A weight was lifted from my consciousness that I had not realized was so heavy.
I also felt a tremendous amount of pride. As the senior organizer with Working Together Mississippi, our statewide organizing vehicle, I worked with clergy from various faith traditions across the state in the fight to remove the flag. We worked with Jews, Muslims and Christians from many different denominations, such as Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Mennonites, COGIC, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Southern and Missionary Baptists. It was the honor of a lifetime, an ode to the ancestors and others who championed this cause long before me.
Changing What I Cannot Accept: My Story of Understanding Racism in Mississippi, Mississippi Free Press
When the Jackson Zoological Board announced its intent to relocate from west Jackson to northeast Jackson, Working Together Jackson quickly mobilized for a press conference with Mayor Chokwe Lumumba.
Said WTJ leader Heather Ivery, the "intent to leave west Jackson is disheartening -- not only because of the possibility of losing a historic, 100-year old ecosystem, but because of the lack of transparency and involvement of the community in the decision-making process." Mayor Lumumba echoed WTJ's words, calling the proposed $50 million investment required for relocation "disrespectful to the history of the zoo and the folks in the community in which the zoo currently resides."Read more
Two months after Working Together Jackson put public pressure on Jackson State University (JSU) to replace long-abandoned buildings with green space, leaders celebrated the first demolition on campus. The demolition resulted from a collaboration initiated by Working Together Jackson in which Revitalize Mississippi Inc. agreed to demolish the properties at no cost to the JSU Development Foundation or university.Read more
Clergy of Working Together Jackson stood with workers at a press conference organized in the wake of Kroger's announcement that it would close its South Jackson grocery store. Clergy demanded the relocation of 109 otherwise unemployed workers to other stores, noninterference in local efforts to attract a new grocery store to this food desert and continued support for south Jackson public schools.Read more