Building Bridges: Fall 2012 E-newsletter

What’s inside?

1. A Conversation with New Outreach & Development Director Anne Phillips
2. New Film: Farewell to Factory Towns?
3. “Provocative” and “empowering”: Young people learn about class and classism
4. Recent workshop highlights
5. Cross-Class Couples on the Radio
6. First-Generation College Students
7. Bloggers Expose Classism to Wider Audiences

A Conversation with Class Action’s New Director of Outreach and Development, ANNE PHILLIPS

Betsy Leondar-Wright: What drew you to want to work at Class Action, Anne?

Anne Phillips: I caught on early in life that economic inequalities and putting profits over people were at the root of many problems. Whether it’s reproductive justice and health care, the environment, workers’ rights, transportation, public health, or public education, it seems there are always winners and losers.

I want to work towards a world where everyone wins. But to get there we need more safe places for people to have a dialogue. Class Action is the only organization that makes that their mission, which is what drew me to want to work here.

Betsy: How did your own class background influence your work for social justice?

Anne: I grew up in a working-middle class community just outside the Twin Cities. My parents, coming from working class backgrounds and each earning two-year Associates Degrees, made a pact early on that all of their 3 kids would graduate from a four-year college. Although my family did not have money to pay our tuitions, my siblings and I worked through school, sometimes 2 or 3 jobs, and took out student loans. None of us finished in the traditional four years, but we all worked hard to help their dream come true. Today I feel lucky that I’ve been able to spend the last 15 years as an activist, organizer, and fundraiser for a variety of social justice causes whose missions are near and dear to my heart. I also count myself lucky to finally have those student loans paid off!

Betsy: Working for social justice can be a long uphill slog. What keeps you ticking?

Anne: I am an optimist at heart; I believe that people are good. Although we have a long way to go to break down the barriers of all forms of oppression, I am excited to bring my experience and passion for building equity and community to Class Action.

Betsy: What are your dreams for Class Action’s future?

Anne: I’m looking forward to the day when Class Action needs to quadruple our cadre of trainers and consultants to keep up with the demand, and when Created Equal is commonplace in classrooms across the country. The wake of the economic recession has everyone questioning the systems that got us here, and I think that tackling classism is a key part of dismantling these systems.

Betsy: I’m really happy to have you join the Class Action staff. Welcome aboard!

Anne: Thank you!

New film: Farewell to Factory Towns?

Longtime Class Action board member and sociologist Maynard Seider has created a documentary film, Farewell To Factory Towns?, about what happened to factories in North Adams, MA.

In telling the story of deindustrialization in one city, we also learn of the broader economic trauma suffered by cities in the 1980′s and 90′s whose economies were dependent on factory work.  It was not only Reaganomics that harmed the working class, but also President Clinton’s policies of NAFTA and welfare reform.

When Class Action showed Farewell to Factory Towns? this summer, we were inspired to discuss what it would take to reach full employment again. This documentary is a must see for everyone advocating for economic justice.

To purchase a copy on DVD for $12 or other materials on class and classism, please visit Class Action’s online store.

“Provocative” and “empowering”: Young people learn about class and classism

The first responses to Class Action’s new youth curriculum, Created Equal, have been enthusiastic. Young people relish this opportunity to engage with the class issues so often left out of K-12 education.

An 11th and 12th grade math teacher, Josh Hornick, used six of the 40 activities in his Greenfield, Massachusetts classroom. He says that all six “led us into eye-opening, engaging conversations about money, society, and class.” For example, an exercise called “Are you what you wear?” based on photographs of people dressed for various roles “got them thinking…The kids really got into it.” He enthused,  “How great that Class Action has provided us with such a teacher-friendly, engaging package.”

More than 35 teachers, religious editors, and youth group leaders are piloting Created Equal and giving Class Action feedback on what worked and didn’t work with young people. If you have a classroom or youth group that might benefit from some of the Created Equal activities, you can order it from our online store; please email to tell us how it goes at info@classism.org. Our goal is to incorporate these evaluations into a new, field-tested edition in 2013.

Recent workshop highlights

Foundations, social service agencies, colleges, high schools, and social justice organizations have sponsored Class Action workshops in recent months.

I have first-hand experience of how unique and admirable your work is… Our community continues to rely on your resources and insights for how to talk about class and how to transform classism.” – High school Director of Multicultural Affairs

A workshop at The Network / La Red, which works to stop LGBT partner violence, tackled organizational classism.

“Thank you so much for facilitating ‘Class and Classism in Organizations’. We are excited to put all we learned to work!”

Participants in a daylong Class Action workshop at The San Francisco Foundation led by trainers Tanya Williams and Jerry Koch-Gonzalez.

“I I enjoyed how transparent and honest / authentic [Class Action facilitators] Jenny Ladd and Rachel Rybaczuk came across. They were very receptive to our concerns.” – College administrator

To learn more about bringing Class Action trainers to your organization, check out our workshop brochure and contact us at info@classism.org.

Cross-class couples on the radio

Mixed-class couples face special challenges, according to a feature story on the national radio show Marketplace.

Class Action co-founder Jenny Ladd told Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark, “Well, we are in cross class relationships.  Every single one of us.”

You can read or listen to the whole piece on the Marketplace archives.

First Generation College Students

College students whose parents didn’t go to college are much less likely to graduate: 60% drop out, compared with only 31% of students whose parents have 4-year degrees, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

On Class Action’s website, the resource webpage for first-generation and low-income college students is full of stories, exemplary support programs and good ideas for helping students succeed.

Bloggers Expose Classism to Wider Audiences

One exciting aspect of Class Action’s blog, Classism Exposed, is seeing the posts reprinted and circulated to new and wider networks.

A few recent highlights:

•        After Jan Innes wrote provocatively, “Seeking instant invisibility? Displacement from society? Separation from the shared life expectations of friends, family and colleagues? If so, become disabled,” she emailed the link to some disability rights activists. At last report, 78 listservs, email forwards, and newsletters have circulated it.

•        When Betsy Leondar-Wright heard well-known progressives Bill Fletcher Jr., Frances Fox Piven, Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now!, Bob Herbert and Michael Zweig speak at the Working-Class Studies conference, she blogged about it — and then saw the post appear on high-traffic websites that cover social change strategy, such as Alternet and Portside.

•        The journal of an anonymous youth shelter worker was brought to the blog by Seattle education advocate Polly Trout. A news website with a large local readership, Crosscut, ran the column, and the Walk the Talk zine reprinted it.

We know we have millions of kindred spirits who are concerned not only about economic inequality, but also about cultural classism, class stereotypes and class segregation; and wide dissemination of Classism Exposed posts is one of our best means of connecting with them.

Class Action’s summer 2012 interns and staff

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