Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Spike Lee: "His interest piques and he raises his eyebrows."

Submitted by Mui Sam Le of San Jose State University.

Hi everyone,

I met Spike Lee this past Friday along with GCCWP member, Vanessa, and our friend, Jeanette. WE. HAD. THE. BEST. TIME. EVER.

My recap of the event is below: We get to Borders Bookstore at around 6 pm and only had to wait 30minutes before meeting him! I would say 150 -200 people gathered to meet him.

As we were waiting in line, we talked to a Borders employee about whether or not we can meet with Spike together. Vanessa and I practiced a spiel and wanted to be together to say it to him since we had different parts. Since Vanessa and Jeanette did not have any of his merchandise, it might have been a bit of a problem as he was only meeting people that owned his books or DVDs. The Borders employee said that it should be okay as long as we don't do anything crazy.

(Hmm..what did he mean by crazy?)

As we approach the front of the line, we find out that contrary to what the Borders employee said, the three of us cannot meet with Spike together and only the person with his merchandise could. We decided that I would be the one to do it since I own a copy of When the Levees Broke, a powerful documentary on Hurricane Katrina. Vanessa and Jeanette gave me a couple words of encouragement and I was off to meet Mr. Spike Lee!

First I say something like, "Hi." I was so nervous! Then I gave him my DVD to sign.

He looks at the post-it note with my name on it and asks how to pronounce it. I tell him and he says it correctly. That was way cool.

As he is signing my DVD, I begin my little talk. I tell him that I'm a student at San Jose State University and that his documentary inspired us to start a project called the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project. It has now spread to 43 campuses across the nation. His interest piques and he raises his eyebrows.

Then I go onto talk in detail about how the GCCWP is a national effort to push for federal legislation that will provide Gulf Coast residents with100,000 jobs to rebuild their communities.

He listens intently.

I mention this past week the resolution was introduced by Speaker Pro Tem in the California State Legislature and Congressman Bennie Thompson will introduce this to Congress in June. I said, "We want you to be there." I offer him a GCCWP flyer.

He looks quite interested and says, "Let me give you my fax number" then writes it down on the post-it note!!

As Spike is writing it down his fax number, I continue to talk and say that we've gotten the support of ACT and ACORN with Tanya Harris (who appeared in Levees alongside mother and grandmother) and Steve Bradberry.

Again, he looks interested by raising his eyebrows. I mention that they're 100% behind our effort. I ask him if he could sign an extra GCCWP flyer and he kindly does so, even though he was only supposed to sign his memorabilia. Lastly, I thank him for his time and shake his hand. (Yes, they were nice and soft). :)

It was an amazing night. So, let's send him that fax on Monday! I was thinking of cordial letter and include action steps and/or other ways he can support theGCCWP.

Do you have any thoughts or ideas?- Mui

San José State: National Post-Katrina College Summit

Submitted by Scott ML of San José State

Our summit at San José State went well. The events were well attended. For example, we had about 10-15 newcomers to our Katrina films (in addition to the 20 or so students who are already involved in the SJSU chapter of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project). Check out this front page story covering "Katrinaquest" [click here]

This article was one of three that was on the front page of the Spartan Daily during our week-long summit. Our highlight event was a "Solidarity Dinner" where we had 20 Katrina survivors and 20 students eat dinner together, and tell our stories It was an incredibly powerful get together, with stories of struggle and inspiration shared by many.

University of Nevada at Reno: National Post-Katrina College Summit

Submitted by Penny Pritchard, UNR. "Here is the newspaper link; http://nvsagebrush.com/news/show/373. It was a pretty good article but there were a couple of things in there that were misinterpreted. "

Student inspired to help Gulf Coast
The Nevada Sagebrush, By Nicole Brown

When Penny Pritchard, a 21-year-old health ecology major, wrote about poverty for a class a few semesters ago, she said her lack of a solution troubled her.

"I’ve had an interest in poverty for a very long time," she said.

But she said a lecture by San Jose State University professor Scott Myers-Lipton Thursday planted a seed in her mind – she’d join his Gulf Coast Civic Works Project to help relieve poverty in the Gulf Coast. She said she’d then spearhead a club at the University of Nevada, Reno to raise awareness for the project and possibly petition the U.S. Congress in September to write legislation creating community service jobs for Gulf Coast residents.

The other university chapters of Myers-Lipton’s project help lobby for change by getting signatures for the petition, creating stimulating visuals to raise awareness about the project, Myers-Lipton said. He said they’ll also try to contact their local state legislators to try to raise awareness and back the project when the group visits Washington, D.C., in September.

Myers-Lipton said he contacted one of the senators in California, who said if other senators get involved, she will too.

Myers-Lipton suggested students interested in helping with the project should exchange information and start mobilizing. Eight students stayed after Myers-Lipton’s presentation to start brainstorming ideas.

So far, the UNR students have printed a few petitions from solvingpoverty.com, the Web site for Myers-Lipton’s project, to pass around, and they plan to use gathered signatures to help lobby Congress to create civic work opportunities for Gulf Coast residents.

After the UNR students get the signatures, they said they will send them to Myers-Lipton and he will add them to the other universities’ signatures on his master list. Once the master list reaches its goal of 100,000 names, the Web site will post that 100,000 civic works projects can be created, according to solvingpoverty.com.

The UNR group said they will also create cardboard tombstones with the names of the Hurricane Katrina victims. The tombstones would be displayed on campus to show the number of people who died in the disaster, they said. The group said they focus around the Katrina victims because Mississippi and Louisiana were two of the poorest states in the U.S. The disaster just raised awareness of the amount of poverty in these areas, Pritchard said.

Pritchard suggested that all students at UNR write letters to Sen. Harry Reid to ask for money to implement the program.

Myers-Lipton said the UNR group should ask their professors for two minutes at the start of class to help get signatures for the petition. He said San Jose State University students received about 600 signatures so far using this method.

Myer-Lipton said the problem of poverty will take a long time to remedy, but with people working together it can happen.

"Change is hard, but possible," he said during his presentation.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tulane University: National Post-Katrina Summit

Submitted by Lauren Elliot of Tulane University

Hey! sounds like your Summit is going great! We kicked ours off today with a screening of "When the levees broke" Acts I and II. It was in a central location that had many people coming and going, so we gave a short description of Gulf Coast Civic Works Project several times through out the screening, to educate as many people as possible.

We made a really awesome coffin, with our theme "Death to Apathy" and had people sign note cards to put inside. We got a little over 4 pages of signatures. Good luck with the rest of your week! ~lauren

Warren Wilson College: National Post-Katrina Summit

Submitted by Janet Jones of Warren Wilson College

The Service-Learning Office of Warren Wilson College was greatly encouraged by the campus-wide participation in the recent National Post-Katrina Summit joined by 42 colleges and universities nationwide. A survey and panel discussion after a day long Expo and several presentations evolved into a discussion extending into WWC Board of Church Relations and Board of Visitors meetings that same week.

Black Mountain Presbyterian Church pledged their support to WWC's Post Katrina efforts on Thursday evening after a presentation by WWC students at their church. After assessment and reflection on Warren Wilson's commitment to Post-Katrina efforts, the Service Learning Office is proud to announce it's upcoming Epiphany Summer Youth Program in New Orleans.

Bonner Service Scholars, under the leadership of the NCCC Vista will intern in the 9th Ward and East New Orleans sharing their tutoring and mentoring expertise at a Cultural Day Camp for 7 to 13 year olds from June 4th through July 14th, 2007.

Epiphany Community Cultural Camp is a combined effort between Warren Wilson College, North Carolina Campus Compact, Epiphany Baptist Church of New Orleans and Baptist Builders of Baton Rouge.

In addition to the Day Camp, Reverend Dr. Louis Larmour of Epiphany, is helping WWC SLO coordinate 6 Community Service Saturdays. WWC student volunteers who have participated in three or more service trips to the Gulf Coast Region, will qualify to lead gutting and rebuilding crews in neighborhoods still needing help.

The first project is a Catholic Church in the 9th Ward which is still awaiting gutting and five adjacent homes. Families and especially Youth from the Cultural Camp program, will be invited each Saturday to join-in cleaning a series of parks starting at the heart of their own neighborhoods and extending throughout the area. NCCC Vista Volunteers make a commitment to create sustainable community service programs. It is our hope that the community building effort we instigate this summer will sustain itself through momentum even after WWC Students come back to school in the fall. The Camp involves Arts, A Mural Project, Journaling, Reading, Sports, Outings and Community Service.

Contact: Pat Tuttle or Janet Jones of Warren Wilson College to get involved.

SUNY-StonyBrook: National Post Katrina College Summit

Submitted by Simone Crichlow, SUNY-StonyBrook

The National Post Katrina College Summit at SUNY-StonyBrook was an event which heightened the level of education and awareness about the Gulf Coast amongst the student community.

Stony Brook hosted a two-day petition drive, which produced approximately 1,000 signatures. The number is still rising as many people took petitions to their communities in an effort to get more signatures!

We showed Spike Lee's film, "When the Levees Broke" which stirred a strong sentiment of emotions within the viewing audience.

Lastly, Claire and I did a presentation entitled "Louisiana: The Truth of the Matter" in which we address the legal, social, and political effects of Hurricane Katrina as well as the public health and educational challenges the people of LA face. More importantly, the camaraderie and commitment demonstrated by the volunteer team was outstanding! They were far from shy. They were hard working, dedicated, and motivated social workers looking to do something for a stronger cause. That meant the most to me.
The absolute support and generosity exhibited by the School of Social Welfare, the school of which Claire and I specifically are graduate students, was amazing.

These collective efforts were part of this movement. The impact on the Stony Brook community as a result of this Summit was truly powerful and a success.

UNC at Chapel Hill's National Post-Katrina College Summit

Submitted by Mary Small, President, Extended Disaster Relief ; UNC-CH Class of '08; Sociology and Public Policy

Sorry for being so out of touch at the national level—once things got going here at UNC, it was hard to do anything more than keep our heads above water!

I've attached our press release and links to a few of the articles about our events are below. The media (TV and radio included) in the Chapel Hill area was amazing and covered virtually everything.

Highlights included a partnership with local restaurants-one per night-with 10% of proceeds going towards the NGO's we've been partnering with in Biloxi since the storm. It ended up being a great publicity-getter than gave us a chance to talk to all kinds of community members that we wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach. Also, we screened "When the Levees Broke," and had a panel discussion about policy options for rebuilding the Gulf Coast. The daily information table day was hugely successful as well.

As soon as exams end, I'll write the letter to John Edwards and send a copy your way.

Links to articles:

  1. Restaurants to raise funds for relief [pdf]
  2. Vigil held to support Gulf Coast residents [pdf]
  3. Panel discusses current state of affairs in New Orleans [pdf]

Linfield College's Post-Katrina Awareness week

Submitted by Jess Wilson of Linfield College

Linfield College's Post-Katrina Awareness week had two main goals:

  1. 1. promote awareness about the current circumstances in the Gulf Coast region, and

    2. to spread the word and gain support about the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project and it's proposal.
We accomplished these goals in several ways. First, we had informational tables setup during the week for petition signing, discussion, and to talk about our events.

Our initial event was a photo spread of different times post-Katrina, and included some original (as close as we can get) New Orleans food. This event was aimed at discussion and was fairly informal.

We had a sleep out for three nights to focus on the housing issues and show the activist side of the efforts.

We brought a musical group, Jesse and the Nights, of which the front man was a displaced resident of Louisiana to share the music and for people to hear first hand how Katrina affected some one's life.

We also had a panel of individuals speak about various issues going on in Louisiana and specifically New Orleans. The panel consisted of 2 Chief Justices, 2 Judges and one non-profit individual, all Louisianans who all had different stories to tell.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More Than Just Talk: John Edwards Mention of 50,000 Jobs for Gulf Coast

Bob Herbert's column recounts a conversation with John Edwards. He titles the column "More Than Just Talk". We are happy that John Edwards is also calling for jobs for the Gulf Coast; his idea is excellent -- we encourage him to take a much more public stand and call for serious rebuilding starting with 100,00 civic work jobs!

Below is the quote. Click here for the entire column:
"During a lengthy interview that followed his talk with the local residents, he told me that what had been allowed to happen to New Orleans was “an embarrassment for America” and that as president he would put the power of the federal government squarely behind its revival.

He said he would appoint a high-level official to take charge of the rebuilding, and he would have that person “report to me” every day. He said he would create 50,000 “steppingstone jobs,” in parks, recreation facilities and a variety of community projects, for New Orleans residents who have been unable to find any other work. And he said, “We’re also going to have to rebuild these levees.”

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Senator Obama cites our work!

We have great news!

Yesterday, Senator Obama cited our work in a speech he gave in Baton Rouge, LA. I was told this morning by Congressman Bennie Thompson's office that the Obama campaign had contacted their office about the our idea for 100,000 WPA-like jobs for the Gulf Coast.

Then, today, I was sent the below speech. (Recall that Congressman Bennie Thompson is the person that the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project has been working with since Congresswoman Lofgren hand delivered our proposal to him back in November.)

A huge YEAH to all of the work we have done this past semester. We should all feel great about what we have accomplished in such a short time. Keep it up!

The full article is at:

"That's why I have called for $50 million to begin innovative new job training and workforce development programs. This plan will also provide mentoring opportunities and let case workers help men and women make difficult transitions. It will coordinate with local employers, community colleges, and community organizations so that job training programs are actually connected to good paying jobs with the opportunity for career growth. This would help lift more people out of poverty and into the middle class.

There are models all across this country for how for how we can rebuild our cities and communities. There's a new idea coming for the Gulf Coast and the New Orleans area. Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Emanuel Cleaver, the former mayor of Kansas City and head of the National Conference of Black Mayors, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus will soon introduce legislation that creates a Gulf Coast recovery and empowerment initiative. It will employ people who fled the region to rebuild the region: the houses, the businesses, roads and bridges. It will give people an incentive to move back home and put them back to work. That's the kind of leadership..."

-- best, scott

Scott Myers-Lipton, Ph.D.Associate Professor, Sociology DepartmentCommunity Change Concentration
San José State University
(510) 508-5382

Tusculum College one of 39 campuses to host National Post-Katrina College Summit

From Gulf Coast Civic Works Chapter at Tusculum College:

Tusculum College was one of 39 campuses across the country to host the National Post-Katrina College Summit, a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the crisis in the Gulf Coast and to promote federal legislation calling for a New Deal-style program for the region.

Events on the Tusculum campus on Wednesday (April 11) included a public reading of the names of victims of Hurricane Katrina and a discussion by Tusculum students who have traveled to the hurricane-stricken areas about their experiences along with a showing of a portion of Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke.”

Students also conducted a petition drive to gather signatures in support of the passage of federal legislation to create a program that would create 100,000 jobs for Gulf Coast residents to rebuild their communities. The cost for the program, which includes job training, is estimated at $4 billion.

The National Post-Katrina College Summit was initiated by the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project, which is spearheading the national effort to develop the legislation to establish the federal work program.

The need for such a program was expressed by Tusculum students and faculty during the discussion session on Wednesday.

Robin Fife, assistant professor of social science, has led three Service-Learning classes to the Gulf Coast area to help in the hurricane relief effort with the most recent trip taken earlier this year.

“It was the hardest work I have ever done,” Fife said of the relief projects she and her students have undertaken, including ‘mucking out’ damaged contents of people’s homes. “It was not just physically hard, but emotionally as well because we were taking the stuff of people’s lives out to the curb to be thrown away.”

She said that on one trip, the students met a lady in one neighborhood who is the only person who has returned to that area in New Orleans. “The city is not coming back, and now the insects, bugs and animals are taking over,” she added.

Sudipa Shrestha, who was in New Orleans in March, said she was disappointed to find that the government and large national organizations were not doing more to help people in New Orleans, but that the help was coming through smaller non-profit organizations.

Shrestha, an international student from Nepal, organized and led a group of 12 Tusculum students to New Orleans for an “Alternative Spring Break” in the first week of March. The students worked to remove damaged materials from homes, some so overtaken with mold that the students had to wear protective clothing and masks.

The students worked with Common Ground Collective. Common Ground was established one week after Hurricane Katrina and its mission is to provide short-term relief for hurricane victims and long-term support in rebuilding communities. It has hosted over 10,000 volunteers to provide relief and assistance to hurricane survivors, and contributed millions of dollars to the community through distribution of food, water, cleaning supplies, protective gear, tools, building materials, and volunteer labor.

Shrestha said the organization is student-oriented and provides both short-term and long-term volunteer projects for students. Working with the group, the Tusculum students had the opportunity to meet other college students from across the country, she added.

The “Alternative Spring Break” is the first trip of its kind at Tusculum College and had sponsorship from MECO Corporation.

The trip to New Orleans was among the latest service efforts by Shrestha, who is a member of the Bonner Leader student service program on campus and active in the local community, through both service and her academics. An accounting major, she gained invaluable experience through an internship at MECO Corporation last summer, and she has used the knowledge she has gained in the classroom and the business world to provide a needed service to a local non-profit organization.

Last January, Shrestha began working for the director of the Greeneville company’s Foreign Sourcing Department, which handles the company’s importing of supplies and exporting of products. She describes MECO as “one of the best places I have worked - the company has a family environment.” Through her internship, Shrestha said she learned about working in the global business environment with suppliers and customers from different parts of the world.

She has been able to use her business skills learned in the classroom and her internship to assist the Opportunity House. Shrestha worked at the Opportunity House once or twice a week through the summer and created a brochure about the organization and its services. This brochure has been sent to local businesses and organizations to raise the awareness of the services provided by the Opportunity House and help garner some much-needed support.

The Opportunity House Thrift Store, which provides financial support for the organization, moved locations during the summer, and Shrestha helped in the process of sorting clothes in preparations for opening at the new location.

As a Bonner Leader, Shrestha has also served locally in children’s educational programs as well as traveling to other communities such as Caretta, W.Va., to help others.

Post-Katrina College Summit at California State University at Fullerton

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Chapter at CSU Fullerton had an active and successful week. Here are a few pictures from Dr. Lezlee Hinesmon-Matthews, Afro-Ethnic Studies Department and student Tiana Coleman. See the entire agenda: http://www.solvingpoverty.com/Student_Reg_Fullerton.htm

Saturday, May 05, 2007

National Post Katrina College Summit: University of Michigan Roosevelt Institution

The University of Michigan Roosevelt Institution is proud at the overwhelming success of the Roosevelt Relief: Hurricane Katrina College Summit.

With an event each night for the week of April 9-14, the Summit was very well received by the Michigan campus and Ann Arbor community. The first two nights had a good turn out for the showing of the Spike Lee documentary, "When the Levees Broke".

On Tuesday, April 10th, Lt. General Russel Honoré gave a phenomenal keynote address to a packed room of students, faculty and area neighbors. His presentation and subsequent question and answer session were inspirational and informational.
(Lt. General Russel Honoré during his keynote address at the University of Michigan Summit)

(Lt. General Russel Honoré receiving special recognition from the University of Michigan Center on Afro-American and African Studies.)

Then, the Roosevelt Relief Policy Publication was officially launched to the campus during the Policy Challenge featuring a distinguished panel including Representative Alma Smith, Professor John Chamberlin and Peace Corps advocate Nathan Rothstein.

(Co-Presidents Hilary Doe (left) and Stephanie Somerman (right) at the Policy Challenge with the panelists: Representative Alma Smith (left), Professor John Chamberlin (middle) and Nathan Rothstein (right))

Finally, the week ended with two different fundraising events; in the end the Roosevelt Institution raised over $700 in t-shirt sales and fundraising events. Overall, the Summit was a huge achievement and the University of Michigan Roosevelt Institution is excited to have participated in the event.
(Roosevelt members and Michigan students at the Policy Challenge.)

(Michigan Roosevelt member Jon Hill collecting signatures in the Diag.)

Stephanie Somerman
University of Michigan Roosevelt Institution