Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rev. Jackson duplicates Mayor Byrne strategy to call attention to public housing

I'm part of a Non-Profit Blog Exchange this week. What's that got to do with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Public Housing in Chicago, or former Mayor Jayne Byrne.

The story on page 5 of the Chicago Sun Times today is titled "Jackson rips cops at housing complex". The photo shows the Rev. Jesse Jackson with a family at an apartment in the Harold Ickes development on the near South Side of Chicago.

The goal of the Rev.Jackson is to draw attention to the needs of residents living in public housing. He along with 20 area ministers distributed 500 turkeys and other food items and drew attention to the harassment by Chicago Police of residents inside the development. In one quote, the Rev. said "We intend to break up the Gestapo-like techniques used in this area."

Jackson moving into a housing complex reminds me of how Mayor Jayne Byrne did this almost 27 years ago when she moved into a Cabrini Green apartment at a time when gang violence was surging in the the area. I was leading a tutor/mentor program serving kids in the Cabrini Green area at that time and I remember it well.

In fact, a few days prior to the Mayor moving in, I was at a meeting of several church leaders who were talking about what could be done to stop the violence. I remember telling them, "why don't you call on members of your congregations to be leaders, volunteers and donors who support tutor/mentor programs as an alternative to involvement in gangs in these areas." Or, "why don't you vote for elected leaders who do more to make such programs available.

To my knowledge none did much of this, and the Mayor moving into a Cabrini Green apartment did not do much to help my tutor/mentor program get volunteers. I'm not sure anything has changed and that Jackson going into Ickes is going to lead to a faith based effort that draws volunteers, leaders and donors into tutor/mentor programs in the 60616 zip code where the Ickes complex is, or to any of the other high poverty neighborhoods of the city where tutor/mentor programs are needed.

It would be great if when the Rev. Jackson calls attention to the problems of the neighborhood he'd point to the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator and say "search the 60616 zip code, sorting for tutor/mentor programs, serving junior high, or high school youth, and see what programs you can find."

If you do this you'll see six that offer some form of tutoring and/or mentoring to junior high school kids, and just one Boys & Girls Club offering any type of mentoring to high school kids. That means the neighborhood has few alternatives for its kids in the non school hours, other than gangs or hanging out. If you search other zip codes you'll find even few programs in some areas, and more programs in other areas.

There should be good programs in every high poverty neighborhood, for every age group.

When leaders begin to put this message into their own communications, pointing the people who listen to them to places where volunteers and donors are needed, we'll begin to get more consistent support for these programs.

That brings me to the Blog Exchange. A Blog Exchange connects me with another blogger, who I've never met. We look at each other's web sites and write something about what the other is doing. One of my past blogging partners was the Smart Communities blog. As a result of a first introduction, I'm now a contributing member to the Act Now wiki hosted by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. This led me to organize my own blog exchange around the conference I host in May and November.

I'm always learning new things when I read what other bloggers are writing.

This time I'm matched with Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications Blog. This was a surprise to me, because this is the blog I point to on my own blog as a path people can go to and learn more about fund raising, philanthropy, marketing, etc., by reading what these bloggers write on their own blogs. Kivi's blog is loaded with good ideas for how to get a message spread to many people. The blogs she links to have a wealth of additional good ideas.

When I visited her blog today I found a section I had never seen before. It's a "how to" for non profit bloggers. Great stuff!!

I'll bet she could condense this article to have the size with twice the impact. I hope she tries.

So what does this have to do with Rev. Jackson and Public Housing. My goal is that many people are using their visibility and writing ability to talk about ways we can solve poverty by building and sustaining comprehensive, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs that mentor kids through school and into jobs and careers.

Every time a leader points to the problem, they should point to a solution, just the way Kivi and other bloggers point to web sites of other non profit bloggers. Every time a tutor/mentor program is featured in a news report, they can draw attention to every other program if they just finish their interview with "look here for more information" and point to a web site like the T/MC that links to many other web sites.

Not every tutor/mentor program is equally good at telling their story. I'm over 60 and my writing habits are pretty well set. The only way I can tell my story better is that good writers take me on as their own community service, and tell my story for me. Thus, if students in high school writing classes or college journalism or marketing courses adopt tutor/mentor as a cause, they can spread out and tell the stories of tutor/mentor programs in their city on a daily basis.

This adds up to a growing public awareness that leads more people to be volunteers, leaders and donors in more places, at programs that end poverty, one child in a job at a time.

If you're a Mayor, or pastor, point to the tutor/mentor programs in your community the next time you are delivering a sermon.

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