Justice United's Mid Year Report

Across the nation, the COVID-19 epidemic and killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor unveiled what we have always known: that America is not working for all of us. It is working only for some of us at the expense of
somebody else. In the midst of these crises Justice United leaders answered the call to build and exercise our collective power from the bottom up, and to begin to create a new political and economic reality that ensures equity for all.

This year we have organized and delivered hundreds of members from our institutions and won significant investment in our community. Download our mid-year report below to learn what we have accomplished together so far!

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Campaign to Improve Mobile Home Parks

Here are the latest updates from Justice United's campaign to improve conditions in three local mobile home parks. 


$30,000 Victory at Mobile Home Park B!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Over 50 Justice United members supported neighborhood leaders from Mobile Home Park B during their negotiations with the park owner.

We have great news! Neighborhood leaders won commitments from the owner to forgive all arrears and debts for residents: a total value of at least $30,000! The debts had accumulated from inadequate park management and miscommunication. 

Before Thursday's negotiation neighborhood leaders had identified debt forgiveness as their top priority. They're now celebrating this big win!! Many thanks to the JU members who demonstrated our power to the owner and helped set the tone for building a public relationship.

This win comes in the context of big changes for the park. The owner has accepted an offer of $1.1 million to sell the park to an out-of-state company, and plans to close within the month. Neighborhood leaders had pushed hard for the debt forgiveness issue since it was one commitment the owner could control, even with the sale imminent.

If the park sale closes as planned, leaders will continue organizing to build a public relationship with the new owners. They'll also continue pushing for trash service, improved water, and more responsive office management. The current owner has guaranteed that his commitment to build a new well will carry over to the new owners, so the leaders will also be holding the new company accountable for well construction.

More soon! In the meantime, many thanks again for standing with the residents of Mobile Home Park B as they negotiated this victory!

Progress at Mobile Home Park A!

Thursday, June 18

Over 100 Justice United members supported neighborhood leaders from Mobile Home Park A last night during their first negotiation with park ownership. 

There is good progress to report. 

Neighborhood leaders led the negotiation and won initial commitments from the owners to address unsafe and unhealthy conditions in their mobile home park. Leaders also secured commitments from the owners to attend a second meeting. Ultimately the goal is to establish an ongoing public working relationship with the owners.

Below we've detailed how the owners reacted to each of four resident-led proposals. 

For next steps, residents will hold the owners accountable for their commitments and will develop a strategy to increase pressure behind the proposals where they didn’t win a full commitment.

We will update Justice United leaders regularly to report on progress and future actions with Mobile Home Park A. We know it was challenging and angering for many on the call to hear executives from a multi-million-dollar capital investment company dismiss the residents' descriptions of financial difficulty during COVID-19. We're going to keep organizing!

Your solidarity has already been a source of encouragement for the residents. They frequently remind each other that Justice United members will be standing with them. Thank you again for your support!

Proposal 1: Postpone the rent increase (currently proposed for August)

Reaction: NO. Executive explained that the company is prioritizing shareholders' earnings. He did, however, agree to another conversation about the rent.

Proposal 2: Fix septic system failures that are currently creating open pools of foul-smelling septic water, and commit to a regular septic system maintenance schedule.

Reaction: YES. The owner will assess the failing areas and begin repairs within the month.

Proposal 3: Remove hazardous and fallen trees, and commit to regular tree inspection to prevent trees from crushing residents' property (which has happened in the past).

Reaction: YES. Owner committed to assessing trees within 2-4 weeks, and tree removal in the fall.

Proposal 4: Pave the pothole-ridden roads, which have caused accidents, are dangerous in wet/snowy weather, and require expensive car repairs.

Reaction: PARTIAL YES. Owner committed to adding new gravel and improved maintenance, but said paving would be too expensive for the company at this time. 

Additional win: The owner agreed to meet again with the residents within the month to report progress on commitments and continue negotiations.

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Relational Canvassing

Relational canvassing is a tool that can help neighborhood leaders organize their power and address concerns that include substandard conditions, safety, the lack of infrastructure, and the threat of displacement by rising rents or property taxes. On March 2 over 100 Justice United members ratified a proposal to use relational canvassing to support these neighborhood leaders.  

Relational canvassing is a deeper form of canvassing than just simply handing out a flyer, or asking someone to complete a survey. It involves a 10-15 minute conversation with someone at their doorstep, to introduce ourselves, hear their story, identify concerns, and see if they have the appetite to take action. 

These relational canvasses are part of Justice United's ongoing listening session campaign. Our goal is to engage more than 600 members of our congregations and communities by May 31 to identify the top pressures and concerns facing our families. Ultimately this campaign will lead to the creation of a new grassroots issue agenda.  

Neighborhoods, Dates, Times

Justice United has been to support leaders in the neighborhoods that surround our institutions or where members of our congregations live: 1) Piney Grove; 2) Fairview; and at least two mobile home parks in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. These neighborhoods represent over 550 predominantly working class, African American and Latino households. 

Canvassing Dates and Times (Sign Up Below)

Saturday, April 04, 10:00 am — 1:00 pm;

Saturday, April 18, 10:00 am — 1:00 pm;

Saturday, May 02,  10:00 am — 1:00 pm.

Training will be provided to all participants from 10:00 am—11:00 am during each canvass. Repeat participants do not need to attend training and can come one hour late. Canvassers will be trained at the UU Congregation of Hillsborough (1710 Old NC Hwy 10) and will then depart to knock on doors in one or more of the above neighborhoods.

Everyone who participates in relational canvassing will receive training beforehand, will be given materials, and will go in pairs. Each canvass will involve both neighborhood leaders and outside supporters.

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Success! African American Teacher Hiring Quadrupled at OCS

Orange County Schools Board of Education Chair Will Atherton, Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder, and HR Director Connie Brimmer attended Justice United's Internal Assembly on March 2 to report on progress increasing teacher diversity through alternative licensure programs that Justice United first asked the Board to strengthen in 2018. They were joined by OCS teachers Wanda Rittenhouse and Monique McAdoo who shared testimony on their experiences with these programs. The full report from the OCS leadership is available here.

The bottom line: Orange County Schools has more than quadrupled the hiring of African American teachers from the 2018/2019 hiring season to the 2019/2020 school year.

Justice United leaders have invested over two years of effort in this campaign to increase teacher diversity within Orange County Schools; a campaign that has now delivered real, tangible results. We are proud to celebrate this success and will continue to monitor progress on this issue over the long term.   

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Justice United's 2020 Strategy

Close to 50 leaders from 12 institutions across Orange County met on Thursday, December 5 to report on progress with house meetings, and to ratify our vision for building relational power in 2020. House Meeting progress report here.

Leaders ratified a strategy for spring 2020 centered around two events: an Internal Assembly on March 2 where we will launch our relational canvassing campaign, and our 2020 Friends of Justice United Individual Donor Campaign Breakfast Kickoff on March 11 (see below).

Justice United Internal Assembly
Monday, March 2, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Hillsborough (Location TBD)
Confirm your attendance here

Leaders have already pledged to turn out over 100 members of their institutions for an important internal assembly on Monday, March 2.

At the Assembly we will launch a relational canvassing campaign to engage hundreds of local residents in key neighborhoods where Justice United has been invited to help neighbors connect, identify their top concerns, and organize for change.

New OCS Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder and Board of Education Chair Will Atherton have committed to attend this assembly and report on progress addressing racial hiring disparities within teaching staff. 

Friends of Justice United Breakfast Kickoff Event
Wednesday, March 11, 7:30 am - 9:00 am
Church of the Holy Family
210 Hayes Rd, Chapel Hill
Confirm your attendance here

Justice United’s 2020 individual donation goal is to raise $20,000 to build our power to make change and deepen our presence across Orange County. We will kick off our 2020 Friends of Justice United individual donor campaign on Wednesday, March 11 at an 7:30 AM breakfast event. 

The event will include testimonials about our accomplishments, with featured speaker Luke Bretherton, a Duke Theologian who studies the intersections of religion, democracy, and organizing. 

The proposal is for every institution to commit to bring at least one table’s worth of people (eight people) and to nominate a table captain who will liaise with the money team leading up to the event. Everyone in attendance will be asked to consider making a gift in support of Justice United's work. 

 

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House Meeting Progress Report

Report from House Meetings, To Date

At our Countywide Leaders Meeting on August 22, JU leaders pledged to engage members of their institutions in house meetings to: 1) begin to identify the top pressures and concerns facing our families today; 2) to identify leaders with the appetite to act and make change. 

We’ve made progress on this goal. This fall over 40 leaders attended training to learn how to lead house meetings, and engaged roughly 150 members of their communities in these conversations. Top concerns surfaced during these house meetings so far include: 

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Our Fall Agenda

This spring Justice United organized five public actions and won hundreds of thousands in public investment to launch a new affordable housing pilot program (master leasing) and to increase teacher diversity in Orange County. You can read our mid-year report here.

On Thursday August 22, 46 Justice United leaders met at Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church to shape and ratify a strategy to continue addressing these important issues. Leaders pledged to send 31 members to attend IAF University (see dates and times below), and to engage over 200 members of their community in house meetings between August 22 and December 5. 

What’s Next for Justice United? 

Justice United’s fall agenda is focused on holding candidates for the Orange County Board of County Commissioners and the OC Board of Education accountable to our grassroots agenda for change.

Both elected bodies have significant decision making power and impact on the everyday lives of Orange County residents. The County has the ability to expand our pilot master leasing program to more quickly house homeless families, and the Board of Education can do more to advance our campaign to increasing teacher diversity and bi-lingual staff at Orange County Schools.  

Candidates will be running in the spring 2020 primary elections, which will be held far earlier than normal. North Carolina is now a Super Tuesday state, and will hold primaries on March 3 (early voting starts February 12). If we want to be ready to take advantage of this primary election cycle we have to get ready now, before the holiday season arrives in late November - December.

IAF University and House Meetings

With this in mind, JU leaders have committed to develop or strengthen Core Teams of leaders within our institutions. This fall, these Core Teams will organize a series of house meetings designed to: 1) brief members on our current issue campaigns and the primary, and 2) surface new pressures facing our communities today. These house meetings will build our base of support for our public action in February.

These workshops will be held in Hillsborough on September 12 and September 19, and in Chapel Hill on October 17. Please confirm your attendance today! 

Questions? Email devin@ocjusticeunited.org if you have any questions. 

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Thank you! Here's What's next

Justice United Members and Supporters: 

Thank you! Your investment of time, talent, and money this spring has allowed Justice United to address the top concerns in our communities.

Together over the last six months we organized five public actions and won tens of thousands of dollars in public investment to launch a new affordable housing pilot program (master leasing). Thanks to this program five extremely low income families and individuals now are living in housing that they could not otherwise afford.

At this point we also appear to be on track to win funding for key diversity hiring and equity initiatives at Orange County Schools. The final budget for the district will be approved soon. 

Over 30 JU leaders met last night to evaluate our public actions this spring and pledged participation in upcoming actions and events. The pledge sheet from the leaders meeting is available here

Please read below to learn more about what's next.

Please save the date for these important upcoming events! 


Press Conference
Monday, July 1, 7:00 PM
Hillsborough (location TBD)
Confirm your attendance here

Join us to mark the beginning of a new fiscal year for Orange County Schools with a capstone, press conference action. Justice United leaders will react to the final budget approved by the Board of Education, and will lay out our community-led vision for 2019/2020. 

JU leaders are monitoring the current budget process. We have called on the Board of Education to prioritize funding for key diversity and hiring initiatives including: the strengthening of the teacher hiring pipeline through a "Grow Your Own" teacher assistant to teacher program. 


Relational Meeting Event
Tuesday, July 30, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Hillsborough (location TBD)
Confirm your attendance here

This event will allow for fellowship over dinner and two, 30 minute long conversations between participants (training will be provided to help participants navigate these conversations). It is based on Justice United's successful April 2 event that brought together over 50 members of our diverse institutions. The goal is to increase our countywide power base by strengthening relationships across Justice United's broad membership. 


Issue Briefing at Your Institution
After service, or at other appropriate times
Turnout goal: At least 10 members

Learn how your congregation has taken action through Justice United to make change in the community, and to advance your institution's mission and values. This briefing will be co-led by leaders from your institution and Justice United organizer Devin Ross. More information about each briefing will be publicized internally within participating members institutions. 

Contact Devin at devin@ocjusticeunited.org to plan an issue briefing in your community. 


 

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Fund Diversity, Fund Equity

Justice United calls on the Orange County Schools Board of Education to FUND DIVERSITY and FUND EQUITY initiatives at Orange County Schools. 

On April 11, Board members Brenda Stephens, Sarah Smylie, and Superintendent Todd Wirt attended a Justice United meeting to brief JU leaders on new initiatives to address their concerns on increasing teacher diversity and bi-lingual front office staff at Orange County Schools.

These initiatives include:

  • A new HR position to focus on diversity recruitment and hiring (listed as "Human Capital Management"). This new position will coordinate district recruitment efforts and outreach to university partners, and will lead a recruitment task force to address district hiring barriers and challenges facing teachers of color;

  • Tuition assistance for Orange County Schools staff pursuing one year alternative teacher preparation program that results in teacher certification (listed as "Recruitment and Talent Management").

  • Professional development series to cover equity, inclusion, and cultural awareness throughout the district (listed as "Staff PD Joint Venture").

[see 2019/2020 Continuation/Expansion Budget Request here]

We believe that these initiatives have the potential to increase and retain a more diverse staff - a key concern for Justice United members. 

The County Manager has recommended a per pupil funding increase that is sufficient to pay for these initiatives - but not the full budget expansion requested by the Board of Education, which includes other items such as Maternity / Paternity Leave and restoring TA Workdays.

If the Board of Education does not get their full expansion request they must prioritize the funding of these initiatives in order for them to become reality. Justice United calls on the Board of Education to fund diversity and fund equity first! 


Superintendent Wirt briefs JU leaders on diversity hiring and equity initiatives (April 11)


Justice United leaders call on Board of County Commissioners to approve funding for initiatives (May 14) 

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Superintendent Wirt Resigns

Last night Superintendent Wirt announced his resignation at the Orange County Board of Education meeting, effective June 30 (press link). This is an unexpected development, and it gives our May 9 Assembly even greater urgency.

Now, more than ever, we need your support. Please read below for important background to this announcement, and to learn how you can help us take effective action on May 9. 

Background 

Less than two weeks ago Dr. Wirt joined Orange County Board of Education Chair Brenda Stephens and Vice Chair Sarah Smylie at Justice United's Countywide Leaders Meeting to hear our reactions to strategies that they have developed to address concerns on the lack of teacher diversity and the need for more front office, bi-lingual staff within Orange County Schools. Read the report from our meeting here.

These strategies have the potential to strengthen the school system's hiring pipeline sufficient to increase teacher diversity and bi-lingual staff. However, in order for this to become a reality the Orange County Board of County Commissioners must first approve a per pupil funding increase requested by Orange County Schools which will pay for these initiatives. 

Orange County will hold two public budget hearings the week following our Assembly on May 14 and May 16. This is our opportunity to show up and support the OCS funding request for these hiring strategies. 

Justice United has invited Board Chair Stephens and Vice Chair Smylie to attend our May 9 Assembly to brief our membership on these strategies. Following their presentation we will caucus to pledge support for their budget request. 

Dr. Wirt's unexpected resignation has given our Assembly greater urgency. Now is the time to act to get this deal funded, before we encounter the inevitable delays associated with the Superintendent's transition.  

How You Can Help

Please follow these three steps to help us take action to address this key community issue: 

1) Confirm your attendance today for our May 9 Assembly

2) Recruit others from your institution to attend. Our goal is to deliver 300 members to this action. Turnout pledges from your institution are available here for reference

3) RSVP to attend one or both of the public budget hearings to support the Orange County Schools budget requestWe will discuss this request at our May 9 Assembly. 

Public Budget Hearing 1, May 14, 7:00 PM, Whitted Building, Hillsborough

Public Budget Hearing 2, May 16, 7:00 PM, Southern Human Services Center, Chapel Hill

Additional Resources: 

Bi-lingual assembly flyer. Download and distribute within your community.

Orange County Schools Goals for Hiring and Diversity (presented to JU on 4/11/19)

Questions? Email Justice United Organizer Devin Ross at devin@ocjusticeunited.org, or text/call at 919 358 5828.

 

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