In the refugee camp where I am currently working in northern Kenya, I am often asked, “What church do you pray in?” For a camp that is split between Muslims, Catholics, Ethiopian Orthodox, Jehova’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, and numerous other denominations, this question really seems to matter. My usual answer: My mom is a Catholic, my Dad a Baptist. I was baptized Presbyterian and raised Methodist. I go to a Jesuit school where I practice Zen Meditation. I have prayed in a Mosque and I’ve prayed in a Buddhist temple. Kwangu, Mungu ni kubwa. For me, God is very big.
The logo for the Shinnyo-En Foundation is a lotus
Two years ago, I had the chance to participate in a powerful multi-faith, multi-generation retreat as a Shinnyo-en Fellow. Over the course of the retreat and my time during the year-long and summer fellowship, I came to admire the “active” Buddhism of the Shinnyo-en order in advocating celebration of diversity. Religion is a polarizing issue but the Shinnyo-en Foundation, in partnership with the CSCE, gave me the language to think of faith as a “path to peace.”
It was through this interfaith understanding that I, an agnostic student attending Jesuit Catholic University, was able to work with predominantly Muslim refugees in Seattle, supported by a Buddhist organization. I am still searching for my own path to peace but I have been greatly aided by the lessons I’ve learned from the interfaith cooperation of the Seattle University and the Shinnyo-en Foundation.
-Joyce Keeley, Former Shinnyo-En Fellow
I’ll be the first to say that I love Trader Joe’s. Growing up in the suburbs of Portland, a visit to TJ’s was a weekly outing. Sure the food’s great, but as a kid, it was all about the samples. Upon entering the store, I would run to the back, grab three samples (two for my “parents”), and gobble them down. Years on, Trader Joe’s is still just as big part of my life, as their 17th & Madison location in Seattle is on my route home. I might purchase more items these days, but to be honest, it’s the samples that are still the real draw. So with all the personal connection, I was surprised to learn from Portland’s The Oregonian newspaper that the food store is embroiled in controversy around issues of great importance to me: a fight involving Trader Joe’s, gentrification, and Portland’s African-American community.
The struggle centers around an undeveloped city block in Portland’s Alberta district, which is the historic home of the city’s African-American community. Akin to Seattle’s Central District, Alberta’s historical demographics were a result of decades of restrictive housing covenants and redlining. However, the area’s close proximity to Portland’s business districts and the abundance of cheap housing has made it a hotspot for gentrification in recent years. Micro-breweries, coffee roasters, and food cars have joined wealthy newcomers, predominantly white, in making Alberta one of the ‘hippest’ spots in Portland. So here’s where Trader Joe’s comes in. The City of Portland, acting through the quasi-public Portland Development Commission, sought to help facilitate the development of this unbuilt stretch of land. The city agreed to sell the property to a wealthy developer at 20% of market price, and in exchange, the developer would construct a mixed-use building on the site, with Trader Joe’s serving as the cornerstone tenant. A win-win for all, right? An urban ‘blight’ would be developed, to the benefit of the neighborhood and its residents. Unfortunately, this tells only half the story.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Norwood / Creative Commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanorwood/913160962/
The development being proposed did not sit well with many people, especially the African-Americans still living in the neighborhood. In an open letter to Portland’s Mayor, the Portland African-American Leadership Forum (PAALF) accused the city of exacerbating “economic pressures that are responsible for the displacement of low-income and black residents.” The PAALF attacked the Trader Joe’s development on several key points: the city was discounting the property by $2.5 million, no low-income units were to be provided, and the grocery store would be unaffordable to many current residents. As they declared, “Our opposition is rooted in the well-documented and ongoing attempt to profit from development in inner North/Northeast Portland at the expense of Black and low-income individuals.” Together, the PAALF “demanded” that Trader Joe’s and the city pull back from the development.
Fortunately, the message was heard. A few weeks ago, Trader Joe’s announced that they were pulling out of the project, saying “If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question.” The fight has not only underscored opposition to gentrification and unrestricted development, but also provided hope for the future. Last week, the PAALF released a survey soliciting alternative ideas for the site. They hope to kick-start a “community visioning” process that will bring together current residents, small-business owners, community organizations, and city officials to creatively think of solutions. Whether it will become a reality is another matter, but it is encouraging nonetheless to see a community empowered to fight for social justice and the preservation of their beloved neighborhood.
The Oregonian Article:
-Stuart Haruyama, Shinnyo-En Fellow
The Youth Initiative neighborhood is incredibly diverse. Bailey Gatzert Elementary alone has 30 different languages that are spoken by students and their families. English Language Learner (ELL) students are the fastest growing subgroup of students, presenting new challenges for educators in meeting the needs of all of their students.
We have great news to report! Both Bailey Gatzert Elementary and Washington Middle School received the first ever English Language Acquisition Award from the Washington State Board of Education (SBE). The award was announced March 19th in conjunction with the SBE board meeting.
Congratulations, Bailey Gatzert and Washington!
If you are interested, you can read the full press release from SBE here: http://www.sbe.wa.gov/news/2014.March19ELAaward.php#.UyyluqhdU-E
-Genevieve Venable, Communication & Outreach Administrative Coordinator at Seattle U CSCE
Casa Latina as an organization is very focused on local issues and on the problems faced by local, Seattle-area workers and immigrants. Casa Latina dispatches workers, teaches classes, and works to recoup worker wages all in the Seattle-area. But at the same time, due to its worker population as well as the nature of its relationship as a founding member of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), Casa Latina plays a large national leadership role. Casa Latina’s local work has consistently been one of the leading models for other NDLON member organizations in managing worker centers, doing advocacy for workers and immigrants, and modeling systems for other day laborer organizations.
The mix of local and national work of Casa Latina makes it a very interesting and relevant organization for me to work with. One of the things that originally drew me to the organization was the instant impact I could see that Casa Latina was having for day workers in the Seattle area. I volunteered creating work orders and helping dispatch workers to jobs throughout the area; I was able to recognize that wages are higher for workers going through Casa Latina, and that employers are very impressed with the quality of the work that Casa Latina workers provide. In this way, the day worker’s center consistently breaks down barriers between worker and employer and simultaneously materially improves the lives of day workers who might not be able to find work otherwise.
As I have become a staff member within the organization, though, I’ve gotten an opportunity to see how Casa Latina’s work in the Seattle community is serving as a model for other day laborer organizations around the country. One of the most prominent ways I have seen this process is through the Machete software. (No, not the slasher movie.) Machete is a software program that was developed from Casa Latina that is used for dispatching workers and creating work orders. It was created a few years ago and is now being implemented across the country in other NDLON organizations as an attempt to streamline the work order process so that more day laborer centers can dispatch more workers. Casa Latina is often innovating in this way, creating systems that are then adopted by other NDLON organizations.
Of course, there is also a tension between local and national due to conflicting styles of day laborer organizations. Not every organization out there is like Casa Latina, so when Machete is implemented at other centers, it is sometimes hard for those centers to use the program, which was built originally to serve Casa Latina’s needs. One of the things that I have seen, working at Casa Latina, is that it is really easy to think nationally, but extremely hard to implement practical programs around the country. It’s hard enough creating a software program and implementing it in one center, where there are dozens of people using the program, each of them with their own ideas about what it should look like; but when there are dozens of centers, each of them with dozens of people with their own priorities and wants, it is even harder!
In conclusion, I think through my work at Casa Latina, I have been able to see a really cool interplay between local and national work, and I have also gotten a chance to see some of the tensions that arise when you are working both on a local level and on a national level.
-KC Bridges, Shinnyo-En Fellow
Today’s post is in honor of Catholic Community Services Dream Big event from this morning benefiting Youth Tutoring Program (YTP) and University District Youth Center (UDYC) We wanted to share a story from Sieng Douangdala, the Center Supervisor for YTP at Yesler Terrace. Sieng shared about a service-learning student from Seattle University who had been making a particularly big impact at Yesler Terrace:
YTP has an incredible volunteer, Lindsey Scheller. She is an SU student who has gone above and beyond to help students succeed academically. Lindsey takes the time to know her students personally and is open to sharing her high school experience so her students don’t feel like they are the only ones going through this. Lindsey always stays late to finish a project after session ends and helps me clean up. Lindsey’s dedication definitely shined through when she came in an hour early to help make pancakes at the READ-A-THON! Lindsey’s positive attitude and smile definitely is contagious and spreads through the center like wildfire. Lindsey is always open to coming in for extra sessions to help out and she has already committed to staying, even after she completes her service hours at SU. Lindsey is a dream come true and is greatly appreciated and valued, here at YTP!
-Sieng Douangdala, Center Supervisor for YTP at Yesler Terrace
Immigration reform and immigrants’ rights campaigns don’t get much publicity in Washington State, mainly due to the fact that the Latino/a community throughout the state is fairly small in comparison to states such as Arizona and California. However, there are still some major battles occurring in the Washington State Legislature over immigration rights that I think are important to learn about. Some of the bills currently being advocated are groundbreaking and would be huge breakthroughs for Latino/a families across the state.
There are two major bills currently in some stage of the legislative process in Washington State. One of the more commonly talked about bills is the Washington State DREAM Act, a derivative of the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which was first proposed in the U.S. Senate in 2001. The basic premise of the DREAM Act is that it would grant citizenship and rights to undocumented youth who have graduated from a U.S. university. It has clear benefits for society at large and its recipients are part of a group of educated and skilled workers whose productive value is obvious. For these reasons, the DREAM Act is one of the major components of immigration advocacy movements across the country.
But college-educated undocumented youth are not the only immigrants in Washington State, and it could be argued that the nationwide focus on the DREAM Act by immigration activists ignores some of the most vulnerable populations within the immigrant community. The vast majority of undocumented people are domestic workers such as house cleaners and caregivers, farmworkers, and manual laborers. These are workers who, even if they had full citizenship status and white skin, would still face hardships due to low wages, lack of legal protections and representation, and inherently classist attitudes towards “blue collar” workers. For this reason, I think it is important to discuss another bill currently going through the legislative process in Washington State: the TRUST Act, which would serve the most marginalized within the immigrant community.
The Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act is a bill in the Washington State legislature, currently in committee, that would address some of the harmful implications of the federal government’s Secure Communities (S-Comm) program. Currently due to this program, if an undocumented person interacts with the police in any capacity, even to provide witness testimony or to report a crime, they are subjected to scrutiny and can be detained and sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for immediate deportation, separated from their families and their lives ruined. For this reason, undocumented people feel a strong distrust of police officers and law enforcement and many crimes go unreported because of programs like S-Comm. The TRUST Act aims to provide safeguards that prevent the scrutiny, detainment, and deportation of undocumented immigrants who report crimes, are witnesses to crimes, and those who commit minor, non-violent offenses. This will increase trust between undocumented people and law enforcement, allowing undocumented people to speak out about crimes and in general make communities safer.
CASA Latina, the organization I work with, is currently doing strong advocacy for the TRUST Act. We have strong communication with the bill’s sponsor in the legislature, who is one of our donors, and we recently had a campaign to send emails to him and the people in the bill’s committee, urging immediate procession to a formal hearing to get the bill out of committee and onto the floor. I think it is really important that there are organizations like CASA Latina willing to stand on the side of people who might otherwise be abandoned by society. It is easy to support things like the DREAM Act, and bills like the DREAM Act are extremely important steps towards a culture that is more accepting of immigrants. But I am very proud that we are also willing to support and advocate for the TRUST Act, which will serve a much larger percentage of the undocumented population and help foster a safer environment for undocumented people.
UPDATE: Senate Bill 6523 is passed, becoming the first law to pass the Legislature in 2014. Read more: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022939342_studentaidxml.html
-KC Bridges, Shinnyo-En Fellow
Name: Stuart Haruyama
Major: History (plans on going to grad school and maybe teaching history)
Leadership Program: Student Leader for the Common Good (SLCG) with SUYI seminar and Shinnyo-en Fellow
Fellowship: Internship w/ non-profit at Puget Sound Sage and Wing-Luke museum
SUYI seminar: The seminar is a 2-credit class with about 25 students with 5 student facilitators. Students talk about the Bailey Gatzert neighborhood and issues of racism, education inequity, and socioeconomic class. The class introduces students to the surrounding neighborhood and society. They have small group discussions and immersions. There are outside class activities and cultural events attend.
What do you love most about it?:
SUYI Seminar: It’s all student-led; students facilitate discussions. Having taken the class as freshman, I understand the benefit of it and want to continue raising awareness, be an agent in change, and allow other people to go through that process. I would like to continue the cycle and raise awareness.
What is your favorite place to be in Seattle?
On a paddle boat in Lake Union
If you were stranded on an island, which two items would you bring?
A rice cooker and the first Game of Thrones book.
What was the last song you listened to?
Cats and Dogs by The Head and the Heart
What would you like to share with students about this program?
There are many opportunities to be a leader whether it’s through the schools, on campus with students, or with community and non-profits. CSCE provides diversity in experiences that best fit you and your interests and leadership positions and leadership styles.
Be the next “Stuart” — Apply to be a student leader today! applications due Monday, March 3rd.
Last month was an exciting time for the indigenous peoples of Southern Mexico. Hundreds of indigenous women, men, and youth from various communities convened in San Cristóbal de las Casas for the Indigenous Rights Congress of Mother Earth. In the face of deepening poverty, environmental degradation of their ancestral lands by outsiders, and continuing violations of their human rights, indigenous leaders met to reflect on the challenges faced by their communities and formulate plans of action. They come from all over the highlands and the northern zone of Chiapas. The last Indigenous Congress gathered 40 years ago, and 20 years ago NAFTA went into effect and the Zapatista movement began. One Equal Heart, the organization that I have chosen for my fellowship, was invited to travel down to Chiapas to attend the congress. One Equal Heart works with the Tseltal People, one of the four groups that will be represented at the congress.
The 2014 Indigenous Congress of Mother Earth addressed the most pressing issues that the communities presently face. They discussed food sovereignty and genetically modified corn, environmental health and natural resources, women leadership, land, health, autonomy, and education.
There are various groups of Mayan descendants throughout Mexico and Central America. They identify themselves by the language they speak. Many of the languages are similar, so that groups can sometimes communicate with each other. Although they come from the same ancestry, they have become divided on some issues. The Mexican government has aided and even caused much of this division. Land ownership is an issue that they struggle with. The Tseltales, along with the other indigenous peoples of Mexico, have a communal approach to land rights and use. This has allowed generations of families and communities to subsist off of ancestral lands, encouraging sustainable land practices. It has also protected the land from outside interests. The Mexican government does not recognize communal land ownership. Instead, they parcel the land and encourage boundaries for private ownership. The government and outside corporations are interested in the rich lands of Chiapas for many reasons. They seek what lies beneath the soil, and they would also like to profit from the breathtaking beauty by making the rugged areas a major tourist destination. United, the indigenous groups of the region stand against many of these ventures, specifically against a highway that would cut through indigenous lands and bring floods of tourists. If the land is owned individually, it is much easier for the government and corporations to persuade individual owners to sell. Outside forces that seek to erode indigenous values threaten the region’s ecosystem as well as the rights of the people living there.
United, the indigenous peoples of Chiapas have advocated for autonomy and education in their own language. They have fought for fair healthcare practices in their own region and have asserted their human rights. The Tseltales and others are fighting to preserve their communities, to retain their language, and to practice their culture. The 2014 Indigenous Congress of Mother Earth is symbolically and practically important as the indigenous peoples of Mexico look to carve out a future that is in line with their values and rights.
-Katie, Shinnyo-En Fellow
Often times, in the wondrous realm of service, we as civil servants—wanting to better the world for others—begin to feel stuck. No matter how many hours we’ve put in at our various placement sites: mentoring young men and women, teaching math and literacy skills to energetic youth, assisting local charities at homeless shelters and food banks, the widespread problems we’ve identified and aim to address continue to occur. It can feel hopeless. The conversations we’ve shared with our “not-so-interested” family members and friends seem to slip right over their heads and we are left disheartened. This is a state that even no amount of C-Street tabling can cure.
NEVER FEAR! The Student Leaders for Education Equity (SLEEq) team has discovered a way to heal our service sorrows…ADVOCACY! The SLEEq Advocacy Committee organized a Lobby Day trip to Olympia last month and introduced six student leaders to the world of public policy. The experience can be intimidating (I know I felt it!), dressing up in business professional attire, walking into a bustling office building, being surrounded by powerful people you can’t call by their first names. But the SLEEq team moved past their reservations and successfully held meaningful conversations with three members of the State Legislature about their work with the Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI).
We met first with the newest and youngest member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw. Brady (yes, he wanted us to call him by his first name) gave us a total fan girl moment. As a gay Latino man, it seems as if he has already broke layers of societal boundaries, but it gets better. Brady has dedicated his life to public service. He founded a non-profit for youth in Honduras, has worked for the Gates Foundation, and now pledges to represent the 43rd Legislative District (our district) in policy-making through a “social justice lens”. Isn’t he just perfect? In our conversation with Rep. Walkinshaw, he spoke to us about a HB2400, a bill he is sponsoring which would contribute over a million dollars to fund university programs for service-learning and mentoring like the SUYI. He explained that the bill has made it through standing committee but was stuck in the Appropriations Committee, which approves bills that require budgetary funds.
Students with Rep. Walkinshaw from the 43rd District
Up next, we spoke with Rep. Frank Chopp, the House Speaker, which is the most powerful member of the House of Representatives. This is where it got exciting. Though we were only allotted five minutes with Speaker Chopp, SLEEq members were able to make a noteworthy contribution within the State Legislative process. Within those five minutes, our students, mentioned HB2400 (the one Walkinshaw mentioned) and immediately, Speaker Chopp called his aides to check on the status of the bill and see if it could have a hearing in the Rules Committee that afternoon! The Speaker is the chair of the Rules Committee that controls which bills get to be heard on the floor of the House. This was a momentous occasion for us because our brief conversation actually had a direct influence within the legislative process. We made real, tangible, large-scale change!!
Overall, this experience taught us about the legislative system, introduced and connected us to our representatives, and more importantly brought us hope! Hope that our efforts are not in vain. We are capable and we are making a difference. We are change agents whether we decide to work in direct service or in the larger realm of policy. We should never lose sight of our visions, our missions, our motivations, and our passions because they are the qualities of love.
“Never forget that Justice is what love looks like in public.” –Dr. Cornell West
-Alyssa Garcia, SLEEq Advocacy Team