On Monday, the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means (HWM) released House Bill 4219An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs, a bill to allocate funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and surplus state funds from last fiscal year. Representatives had until yesterday afternoon to submit amendments to that proposal, and TOMORROW (Thursday), the full House of Representatives will be debating and voting on those amendments.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to advance social justice and right the systemic wrongs that have gone unaddressed for too long. 

Please reach out to your State Representative NOW and ask them to include key funding initiatives in H.4219 that support students, youth experiencing homelessness, and renters facing eviction.

Amendments We Support:

Amendment #1031 “Mass ID”: Sponsored by Representative O’Day and Representative Khan, this amendment would allocate $200,000 to provide free Mass IDs to people experiencing homelessness, provide staffing resources to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to assist individuals experiencing homelessness to access Mass IDs, and track and report on the impact of the initiative. Removing barriers and easing the process for youth experiencing homelessness to obtain state ID is crucial for them to accomplish a host of everyday tasks and access services that require identification.

Amendment #594 “MLAC”: Sponsored by Chairwoman Balser and Chairman Day, this amendment includes funding for the Right to Counsel in Evictions Program and the Right to High-Quality Education for All Students program.
  • The amendment would provide $78 million for a Housing and Eviction Representation Program to provide housing stability and homelessness prevention to those at risk of eviction. This program would make tenants and owner occupants whose incomes are below 80% of the Area Median Income eligible for free legal representation. Read our testimony in support of Right to Counsel here.
  • The Right to High-Quality Education for All Students program would allocate funds to address barriers to fair, equitable, and high-quality education for low-income students across Massachusetts. 
Amendments #313 “Meeting the Need for 10,000 Jobs for Massachusetts Youth” and #314 “Addressing Technical Omission of Homeless Youth in Line Item 1599-2036”: Sponsored by Representative Elugardo, both of these amendments support employment programs for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness.
  • Amendment #313 calls for an additional $10 million investment, for a total of $50 million, in youth and young adult employment. This investment would empower an estimated 10,000 young people with jobs and pathways to career success.
  • Amendment #314 would add language into House Bill 4219 about how youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, particularly BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals, should be a major focus group of this funding. Click here for more information about these amendments from our advocacy partner Breaktime. 

Time is of the essence. Please reach out to your State Representative to help us pass these amendments! 

What You Can Do

  • Contact your Representative TODAY and ask them to co-sponsor amendments #313, #314, #594, and #1031 to H.4219.
  • Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether your Representative will co-sponsor amendments #313, #314, #594, and #1031 to H.4219.
  • Click here to find your Representative’s email and phone number.

The next 24 hours are critical so please contact your State Representative NOW.

 

Keep informed & stay involved!

Stay tuned for more opportunities to take action and support Massachusetts families and youth by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter! Check out our website for our most recent publications and action alerts.

To support our work, please consider giving a donation today.

Thank you for advancing social justice in Massachusetts!

 

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In Massachusetts, over 90% of tenants facing eviction are unrepresented, yet 81% of landlords do have legal representation.

This inequitable distribution of power means that thousands of people – disproportionately women, families of color, and families with children – are thrown into Housing Court on their own without any form of legal representation, and are more likely to be forced out of their homes unnecessarily.

There is a common sense solution to this crisis – increase access to attorneys in Housing Court! Legislators are currently debating how to use the increase in federal funding the state has received to address the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time to tell your legislators they should set aside ARPA funds for the creation of a Right to Counsel program in Housing Court.

These funding decisions are being made now and the House may debate and vote on a bill as early as this week!

Full legal representation has been shown to make a significant impact on tenants’ ability to remain in their homes. Funding a Right to Counsel program would protect the most vulnerable of our population from homelessness, and the many other debilitating effects of evictions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Keep informed & stay involved!

Stay tuned for more opportunities to take action and support Massachusetts families and youth by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter! Check out our website for our most recent publications and action alerts.

To support our work, please consider giving a donation today.

Thank you for advancing social justice in Massachusetts!

 

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The Massachusetts legislative session is in full swing, and we have an unprecedented opportunity to advance civil rights for Massachusetts residents.

An Act to Create Access to Justice (S.996/H.1792) would restore civil rights protections at the state level that were previously available under federal law, make legal remedies accessible, and protect all vulnerable groups. Check out this fact sheet to learn more.

Today, our goal is to reach as many Massachusetts lawmakers as possible. We need you to raise your voice! Please take this one-minute action today and urge your legislators to co-sponsor and support An Act to Create Access to Justice.

Everyone deserves protection under the law and the ability to seek redress in court.

 

Keep informed & stay involved!

Stay tuned for more opportunities to take action and support Massachusetts families and youth by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter! Check out our website for our most recent publications and action alerts.

To support our work, please consider giving a donation today.

Thank you for advancing social justice in Massachusetts!

 

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Exciting news: the Language Access and Inclusion Act is scheduled for a hearing before the legislature next week!

But before that happens, we need to consolidate as much support behind this bill as we can. This is an unprecedented opportunity to dismantle barriers to access, stability, and basic needs that have gone unaddressed for too long, and we can’t do it without you.

The Language Access and Inclusion Act would standardize and enforce language access policies and protocols at public-facing state agencies to ensure non-English speaking residents can access the services they need. As families continue to struggle under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must protect and guarantee the right to language access across the state.

Today, our goal is to reach as many Massachusetts lawmakers as possible to ensure this bill has robust support heading into next week’s hearing. We need you to raise your voice! Please take this one-minute action today and urge your legislators to co-sponsor and support the Language Access and Inclusion Act.

 

Keep informed & stay involved!

Stay tuned for more opportunities to take action and support Massachusetts families and youth by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter! Check out our website for our most recent publications and action alerts.

To support our work, please consider giving a donation today.

Thank you for advancing social justice in Massachusetts!

 

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For Immediate Release

BOSTON, MA, August 24, 2021 – Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice welcomed Wesley T. Gee, Associate at Arent Fox LLP, David A. Michel, Partner at Sherin and Lodgen LLP, and Michelle R. Pascucci, Attorney at Donnelly, Conroy, & Gelhaar, LLP, to its Board of Directors during the organization’s Annual Meeting on June 29, 2021. Massachusetts Appleseed is a nonprofit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as access to justice, educational justice, and youth homelessness and is grateful to have Mr. Gee, Mr. Michel, and Ms. Pascucci, three accomplished and talented attorneys, join the Board.

Wesley T. Gee

Wesley T. Gee, Arent Fox LLP

Wesley Gee is an Associate in Arent Fox’s Boston office and his practice focuses on advising clients on corporate matters in the sports, fashion, and entertainment industries. He has represented professional sports franchises, sports and entertainment facilities, and sponsors, including the Los Angeles Lakers, SoFi Stadium, and Amazon, and luxury designer brands such as Diane von Furstenberg and Yves Saint Laurent. A dedicated member of Arent Fox’s Pro Bono Committee, Mr. Gee has guided multiple nonprofit organizations through the formation and tax-exempt status processes and routinely advises these organizations on a wide array of legal issues.

“It’s an honor and privilege to join the Board of an organization that is dedicated to advancing policy initiatives to protect Massachusetts’ most vulnerable citizens,” said Wesley Gee. “I look forward to supporting Massachusetts Appleseed’s critical work to improve access to justice for all.”

David A. Michel

David A. Michel, Sherin and Lodgen LLP

As a Partner in Sherin and Lodgen LLP’s Litigation Department, David Michel represents companies in a variety of complex civil and commercial disputes, including real estate, construction and employment matters, in federal and state court and through alternative dispute resolution. Prior to joining S&L, Mr. Michel was a Staff Attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Public Defender Division and brings to the Appleseed Board a deep understanding of the need to improve and guarantee access to justice for vulnerable litigants. He demonstrated his commitment to public interest law early as submissions editor for the Boston University Public Interest Law Journal.

“I’m honored to join the Appleseed Board and have been thoroughly impressed with the work Appleseed has accomplished during Sherin and Lodgen’s long history with the organization,” said David Michel. “As a former Public Defender, I have seen firsthand the importance of access to justice and hope to use my experiences to help Appleseed advance their important work.”

Michelle R. Pascucci

Michelle R. Pascucci, Donnelly, Conroy, & Gelhaar, LLP

Michelle Pascucci is an associate with Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP, where she represents individuals and corporations facing criminal, civil, and institutional investigations. As a former federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice Fraud Section in Washington D.C., she investigated and litigated a variety of white-collar cases across the United States. While at the Department of Justice, Ms. Pascucci also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Ms. Pascucci clerked for the Honorable George A. O’Toole, Jr. for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the Honorable Juan R. Torruella for the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I am honored to join the Massachusetts Appleseed Board of Directors,” said Michelle Pascucci. “I have been so impressed by Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission to promote equal rights for Massachusetts citizens and am excited to help advance and promote that mission as a member of the Board.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Wesley, David, and Michelle to our Board and excited to see their broad range of skills and knowledge impact our work,” said Melanie Todman, Chair of the Board. “We find ourselves at a critical point, where the promise of systemic change is possible, and the organizing power of our communities demonstrates that we can meet the immense challenges of our time head-on. I am grateful to have such extraordinary professionals join us in furthering the mission of Massachusetts Appleseed.”

About Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. We research the ways in which the justice system, schools, and government agencies are systematically failing our most vulnerable residents. We collaborate with community partners to ensure that recommended plans of action are practical and comprehensive. We advocate for the implementation of solutions that will create lasting change.

Advocacy Organizations Urge Biden Administration to Ramp Up Enforcement of Federal Civil Rights Laws in Schools Across the United States

WASHINGTON – Four member organizations of Appleseed, a network of justice centers, submitted public comments to the United States Department of Education on Thursday, July 22, concerning the national state of school discipline. By focusing on four questions posed by the Department of Education to the public, Texas Appleseed, Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, and Kansas Appleseed illustrate how school policing, gang databases, discriminatory dress codes, and classroom removals hinder millions of young people from achieving their full potential in classrooms across America.

“To remedy racial discrimination in the administration of school discipline, it necessitates more than data collection and analysis; more than investigating disproportionate representation of students of color in exclusionary discipline and law enforcement referrals; more than implementing intervention-focused discipline strategies to avoid perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Dr. Vicky Luna Sullivan, Esq, a senior staff attorney for the Education Justice Project at Texas Appleseed.

“It demands confronting the root causes of the discriminatory administration of the student discipline, attacking the systemic racial discrimination that occurs by implicit bias and deficit thinking in our schools, and valiantly activating a fundamental transformation that is free of racial discrimination,” she continued.

The public comments examine the detrimental impact of the “hardening” of schools, namely through increasing budget allocations to policing, security, and surveillance. The Centers also uplift some of the approaches highlighted in the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter, which clarified that a school district’s federal funding is contingent upon the non-discriminatory administration of school discipline. These methods of engagement include, but are not limited to, positive behavioral strategies, restorative justice, and multi-tiered systems of support. 

“The Biden Administration should use all available tools to address the rampant misuse of exclusionary discipline and school policing in our nation’s schools,” said Mike Fonkert, the director of the Just Campaign for Kansas Appleseed. “For instance, memos of understanding can be very helpful tools to clarify that school police officers should not be involved in routine discipline. By creating a robust model framework that can be consistently applied across the nation, the Office for Civil Rights would make progress on ending the school-to-prison pipeline, which systematically harms Black and Brown students in Kansas at higher rates than White students.”

“We’ve seen horrendous cases occur, when local and state investments in school policing go unchecked, including sexual abuse of young people at the hands of school police officers on their school campuses. We need to make sure children can feel safe in their own schools,” said Jennifer Rainville, the education policy attorney for the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center. 

The public comments also emphasize that inadequate data collection stands as a grave hindrance to education justice campaigns across the United States. 

“If we’re going to push for policy change that repairs the harms of racial discrimination and the school-to-prison pipeline, especially those that impact girls of color, we need local education agencies and state education agencies to vigorously collect and report this data,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.

The comments conclude with a call for the Biden Administration to fully reinstate and strengthen the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter. Drastic action is needed to mitigate the ongoing detrimental impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the U.S. Department of Education could use several tools at its disposal to deliver long overdue equal educational opportunities to children across the nation. 

“We are proud to stand with these Appleseed Centers as they continually fight to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in their states and across the country,” said Benet Magnuson, the executive director of the Appleseed Network.

“These comments illustrate some key points for the Biden Administration to consider as the executive branch of the federal government maximizes its effort to end the pushout of so many children in the United States,” he concluded. 

###

About Appleseed Network

Appleseed is a network of 16 justice centers across the United States and Mexico working together to reduce poverty, combat discrimination, and advance the rule of law. Appleseed Centers unite research, organizing, policy advocacy, and impact litigation to build systemic solutions for their communities’ most pressing problems.

About Kansas Appleseed

Kansas Appleseed is a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to the belief that Kansans, working together, can build a more thriving, inclusive, and just Kansas.

About Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law & Justice

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues.

About South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center

The South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center fights for low income South Carolinians to overcome social, economic, and legal injustice.

About Texas Appleseed

Texas Appleseed is a public interest justice center that works to change unjust laws and policies that prevent Texans from realizing their full potential. Our nonprofit conducts data-driven research that uncovers inequity in laws and policies and identifies solutions for lasting, concrete change.

Media Contacts:

Sarah Pacilio
Appleseed Network
spacilio@appleseednetwork.org

Angelica Maldonado
Texas Appleseed
amaldonado@texasappleseed.net

Melanie Rush
Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law & Justice
melanie@massappleseed.org

Christina Ostmeyer
Kansas Appleseed
costmeyer@kansasappleseed.org

Brandon Fountain
South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center
bfountain@scjustice.org

 

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Save the Date!
October 14, 2021
6:00 PM
Virtual

Following an extraordinarily difficult year and in the wake of unprecedented challenges, it’s thanks to our community of support that we’ve been able to expand our work to end the systemic injustices and inequities harming our most vulnerable families and youth.

Now, it’s time to come together and celebrate!

Please save the date for Massachusetts Appleseed’s 2021 Good Apple Award Reception on October 14th. This year, we are thrilled to recognize and honor Karen Morton, Executive Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer for Liberty Mutual Insurance and recipient of the 2021 Good Apple Award!

Join us for this virtual celebration in the fall, and see below for details on tickets and sponsorship opportunities!

 

ABOUT THIS YEAR’S RECIPIENT OF THE GOOD APPLE AWARD, KAREN MORTON:

Karen Morton, Executive Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer for Liberty Mutual Insurance

Karen Morton, Executive Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer for Liberty Mutual Insurance and recipient of the 2021 Good Apple Award.

As the Global Chief Compliance Officer, Karen and her team are responsible for the enterprise compliance strategy and policies, compliance training, Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, conflicts of interest, regulatory investigations, oversight of market conduct examinations, privacy, financial crimes and the operational risk assessment process. Karen leads a team of approximately 180 compliance professionals in 29 countries and economies around the world.

Prior to her current role, Karen was the Deputy General Counsel for the Litigation and Coverage Group at Liberty Mutual. In this role she was responsible for the management of a team of legal professionals who handled litigation brought against Liberty Mutual Group and its member companies, oversaw various regulatory investigations, provided enterprise-wide coverage advice and opinions, managed electronic discovery services in support of litigation and all third-party subpoenas for the enterprise.

During her career at Liberty Mutual, which commenced in 2006, Ms. Morton also served as Vice President and Counsel for Employment, Benefits and Executive Compensation and Corporate Real Estate.

Prior to joining Liberty Mutual, Ms. Morton was an attorney with John Hancock Financial Services, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Manulife Financial Corporation. She held the position of Vice President and Counsel, responsible for the management of the Company’s litigation and employment law functions. Ms. Morton previously held various legal positions in the public sector.

Ms. Morton is a member of the Board of Trustees for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, where she serves as the Chair of the Governance and Nominating Committee and is a member of the Board for Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a non-profit agency which serves homeless and at-risk youth.

Ms. Morton received her B.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. She has also received numerous awards for championing diversity and inclusion.

We will also be recognizing Enrique Colbert, General Counsel of Wayfair and recipient of the 2020 Good Apple Award, following the cancellation of last year’s event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Join us for this virtual celebration and please contribute generously! Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened systemic injustices and sent Massachusetts families and youth spiraling further into poverty and crisis. At Massachusetts Appleseed, we’ve risen to meet this moment across multiple fronts – investigating inequitable access to the courts and educational opportunity, delivering know-your-rights resources and trainings, organizing to defend the legal rights of our most vulnerable communities, and more. 

The annual Good Apple Award Reception provides core funding for Massachusetts Appleseed’s work throughout the year, ensuring we can respond to urgent community needs and seize opportunities for action. Help us reach our $250,000 goal by sponsoring this event or making a personal donation.

Celebrate the good with us!

 

Please contact Madeline Poage, Development and Communications Associate, at madeline@massappleseed.org with any questions.

 

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Boston, MA, July 14, 2021 – Today, Haitian-Americans United, the Greater Boston Latino Network, and Jane Doe, a mother and immigrant with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), filed a civil rights complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act against the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) in response to the agency’s failure to provide federally mandated language access to the LEP families they serve. The complaint, filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights and Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, asks the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to compel DCF to comply with legal mandates to provide language access services to Massachusetts families.

DCF’s failure to provide adequate language access to LEP parents directly results in the wrongful separation of non-English speaking families across the Commonwealth. As a recent report by Appleseed documents in detail, when DCF fails to prioritize language access, LEP parents are unable to comprehend or meaningfully participate in DCF’s processes. As a result, LEP families face an increased likelihood of separation compared to their English-speaking counterparts. In fact, Latinx families are more overrepresented in foster care in Massachusetts than in any other state.

“The level of harm we’re talking about is immeasurable,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. “The wrongful and unjust separation of families leaves children traumatized and denies parents their fundamental rights. DCF must be held accountable and meet the needs of the non-English speaking populations they serve.”

DCF has been on notice of its civil rights violations for years and has had ample opportunity to remedy its discriminatory practices. In 2018, HHS investigated a Title VI complaint made by a Spanish-speaking person who had received inadequate language assistance from DCF. The investigation brought to light DCF’s woefully inadequate use of interpreters for LEP families. Following the investigation, HHS issued a set of voluntary compliance measures intended to bring DCF’s language access practices in line with federal law. But DCF refused to comply voluntarily. In the absence of ongoing monitoring and enforcement, DCF has continued to deprive non-English speaking families of meaningful language access, and consequently access to their children.

“Our foster care system has a long and disturbing history of separating families of color and immigrant families,” said Erin Fowler, attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights. “DCF’s failure to provide adequate language access is discrimination against immigrants and families of color. Federal intervention is critically needed to ensure that families are not wrongfully separated.” 

The complaint calls for immediate federal intervention and oversight to compel DCF comply with its federal obligation to provide meaningful access to LEP individuals. Specifically, the complaint requests that HHS order DCF to adopt and implement a comprehensive remediation plan for meaningful access by LEP individuals. The remediation plan should:

  • require DCF to conduct a language access audit, create a meaningful language access plan, and hire Regional Language Access Coordinators, placing at least one Coordinator within each of DCF’s five regions;
  • set concrete targets for hiring bilingual caseworkers for languages frequently encountered, with a focus on the needs of individual area offices; 
  • require quarterly trainings for all caseworkers and contract interpreters on the importance of language access, tools and techniques for competent interpretation, the importance of confidentiality and impartiality, and DCF terminology and procedures; 
  • require that interpreters be present during all visitations, phone or video conversations, and interactions with LEP individuals;
  • expressly forbid the use of family members, relatives, friends, neighbors, and children as interpreters; 
  • require the translation of all vital documents into the preferred languages of LEP individuals;
  • require all community social service providers DCF contracts with to offer in-person interpretation services, or else allow providers access to DCF’s telephonic interpretation services;
  • require the creation of policies and procedures describing detailed steps for caseworkers to identify alternative social services for LEP families; 
  • require DCF to adopt more flexible protocol to acknowledge the difficulty many LEP families experience when attempting to receive non-English social services; 
  • require the creation of policies and procedures describing detailed steps DCF should take upon receipt of a language access complaint; and
  • require DCF to take any other steps that are necessary to achieve full compliance with federal law. 

“Due to DCF’s failures, we have been forced to try to do DCF’s job for them—by providing community interpreters or translating documents that members have received in English,” says Dieufort Fleurissaint, Chair of the Board of Directors of Haitian-Americans United, the lead complainant in the case. “This drains our limited resources and harms our LEP members. HHS must ensure DCF remedies these wrongs and complies with federal law.” 

Family separation is unfortunately not limited to our southern border—it happens right here in Massachusetts. DCF must provide adequate language access to LEP families and, put simply, stop tearing immigrant families apart.

The complaint is available here

About Massachusetts Appleseed

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. The nonprofit researches and identifies the ways in which the justice system, schools, and government agencies have systematically failed impoverished and vulnerable communities, challenges harmful public policies that perpetuate injustices and inequities, advocates for statewide policy solutions, and develops know-your-rights resources for those impacted. (https://massappleseed.org)

 

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Massachusetts Appleseed’s office is closed today in observance of Juneteenth, the annual holiday marking the day that federal troops marched into Galveston, Texas and freed those who remained enslaved more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This act reminds us that freedom and justice are never easily given but must be fought for, and that the enforcement of legal rights is as essential as their mandate.

Once again, our commemoration of Juneteenth coincides with powerful, community-led demands for systemic change and renewed opportunities to dismantle the structures that fuel white supremacy and perpetuate racial injustice. As we confront the ways systemic, anti-Black racism has continually evolved and taken shape through destructive policies that deny access to justice, safety, and opportunity – from redlining, to the school-to-prison pipeline, and countless more manifestations – this Saturday serves as a reminder that America’s history is not past, but continues to inform our present inequities.

We are glad to see Massachusetts mark Juneteenth as an official state holiday this year, and there continue to be many ways to celebrate:

To our Black colleagues, leaders, and partners, we hope today and tomorrow are days of celebration, joy, and rest. To our white and non-Black colleagues of color, we invite you to join us in commemorating Juneteenth through education, reflection, and action by elevating and giving space to Black voices, engaging with Black history that too often goes untaught, and honoring and remembering the organizers and activists who have always pushed this country to live up to its foundational ideals. Together, we can take steps forward in our pursuit of a future where the full humanity of every person is protected and the promises of freedom, justice, and equity are realized.

 

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This spring, Massachusetts Appleseed joined over 250 companies, schools, community organizations, and others as participants in the 2021 Stand Against Racism Campaign, hosted by the Alliance of YWCAs of Massachusetts. Through three discussion sessions during April and into early May, Massachusetts Appleseed staff and Board members gathered together to discuss and reflect on the ways in which white supremacy is embedded in our education systems, experiences in employment, and every facet of our lives.

Massachusetts Appleseed staff and Board members participate in the 2021 Stand Against Racism Campaign.

Participants from three separate discussion sessions: Deborah Silva (Executive Director), Melanie Rush (Research and Policy Assistant), Madeline Poage (Development and Communications Associate), Peter Tobani (Board Member), Zeia Fawaz (Spring Research Intern). Not pictured: Melanie Todman (Chair of the Board of Directors) and John Shutkin (Vice Chair of the Board of Directors).

Together, staff and Board members discussed, “The Muddled History of Anti-Asian Violence” by Hua Hsu, “Racism Is Not a Historical Footnote” by the legendary Bill Russell, “Rotundamente Negra (Rotundly Black)” by Shirley Campbell, and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s keynote address at the 2016 Women of the World festival.

A number of themes emerged throughout our conversations, with participants reflecting on the failure of the American education system to adequately educate students about systemic racism, the consequences of this failure, the impact of microaggressions, the importance of engaging directly with all perspectives, and more.

Our final discussion centered predominantly on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s keynote address, which resonated with staff particularly strongly. In it, Dr. Crenshaw describes the origin of the #SayHerName campaign and lists some of the many Black women killed through racist police violence – Eleanor Bumpurs, Margaret Mitchell, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson, Natasha McKenna – and how the women in these examples were being evicted, experiencing homelessness, in need of mental health services, or vulnerable in other ways. But rather than being treated with understanding or support, they were met with brutality, violence, and silence. At its most fundamental, Dr. Crenshaw’s address reminds us that racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty are intertwined, and until we treat them as such, they will continue to persist.

Massachusetts Appleseed staff also utilized the digital pledge board provided by YW Boston during the campaign, committing to specific ways we will each participate in the fight to eliminate racism in our work and in our lives. Through these pledges, staff members aim to strengthen our ongoing work to develop projects through the lens of anti-racism and ensure all components that make up Massachusetts Appleseed – from governance, to programs, to fundraising – align with our Statement of Values. The Statement of Values was created collaboratively by staff and the Board of Directors in 2020 and through it, we are explicit in affirming that our commitment to promoting access to justice and opportunity goes hand in hand with our commitment to combating all forms of systemic racism.

Massachusetts Appleseed's digital pledge board, completed during the 2021 Stand Against Racism Campaign.

Massachusetts Appleseed’s digital pledge board, completed during the 2021 Stand Against Racism Campaign.

Massachusetts Appleseed has recently deepened its decade-long work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by focusing on the specific ways girls of color are targeted and excluded from their learning environments. As we convene students, educators, advocates, and other community members together to inform and guide our research and advocacy efforts, the tools provided through this campaign will help us build an anti-racist, intersectional foundation on which to do so.

We are so grateful to YW Boston and the Alliance of YWCAs of Massachusetts for providing these resources, and to all the guest curators for their selections and discussion guides. We look forward to continuing to make space for these collaborative and essential conversations, hold ourselves accountable, and center anti-racism in our work to build a more just, inclusive future.

Recommendations for further reading and watching from Massachusetts Appleseed staff and Board members:

 

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