Driving down old Route 49, where many varieties of the traditional shotgun house dot the roadside, you see hints that this election means something to folks: not one, but two, lawn posters dotting every other lawn; giant billboards announcing candidates of "change" rising high above the railroad tracks that separate the commercial strip from the residential areas. It wasn't by design, necessarily, that we ended up here on this date--but that we did is somewhat of a delicious turn of fate. It brings into even greater relief the importance of the work these grantees are doing--and the immensity of the challenges they face as they try to effect change in their home state.
They're currently working on a women and construction project, which will train women and youth to enter the construction field; their media project will involve talking to women who are interested in construction about their training and what they hope to accomplish with their new skills. Karissa McClane and Lywanda White are here representing Moore Community House of Biloxi, which
- Our host for these meetings has been Jason Mackenzie of the North Gulfport Community Land Trust, an organization that is dedicated to providing permanently affordable homeownership to residents in North Gulfport, MS. Since Katrina they've been helping people wade through the mess of insurance bureaucracy, and their media project will focus on land and development issues around the Gulf.
- Sharon Hanshaw and Cass Woods of Coastal Women for Change are here to work on compiling an oral history; they hope to interview seniors on the history of Biloxi, and how life used to be before the storm--both to provide background information to volunteers who have come to the region, and to offer an opportunity for the community itself to take pride in its deep and exceptional history. Coastal Women for Change was founded in the aftermath of Katrina to secure and revitalize affected neighborhoods, and provide them with timely information as the recovery process continues.
- The Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights is a worker advocacy organization that provides organizing support, legal representation and training for low-wage, non-union workers in the state of Mississippi. They are currently running a "Housing is a Human Right" Campaign to try to ensure that all Mississipians have access to adequate housing in the wake of Katrina. Staffer Anchanese Levison is here to put together a report on how housing policies are failing survivors of the storm.
- Will McElhinny of the Mississippi Center for Justice has joined us as well. MCJ was formed to advance racial and economic justice, and has been working in the aftermath of the storm to encourage attorneys to donate their services to the region pro bono. During this training, Will plans to interview a number of lawyers and paralegals who have come down to help since the storms, and compile a report that will run on their website to help encourage other attorneys to lend their skills.