Social Justice Transformation - All Minds, All Hearts, All Hands on Deck

Camila Beiner
By Camila Beiner

Creating a Village

A blog series profiling the work of community leaders across the country working to address the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice in their local communities. The series amplifies diverse leadership and the impact on communities, partnerships and members.

 

Latoya Gayle, a long-time leader with Vital Village Networks (VVN), has been an advocate for marginalized communities in Boston for many years. Gayle was first drawn to VVN when she participated in the Social Justice Mediation Program (SJMP), an effort that aims to train community members in conflict resolution skills that can be used to help build capacity in various settings. When she first participated in the program, Gayle explained it really changed her perspective on conflict resolution because she learned an abundance of information during the 40-hour training. “It really has created a network of conscious conflict resolution advocates, and it really resonates with people who are doing such amazing community-based work already in the city… so this program is just something that they can add to their tool belt when working in their communities.” For Gayle, Vital Village is a unique organization because they focus their efforts on doing meaningful work that really connects and resonates with people. Many times, when organizations work in marginalized neighborhoods, Gayle said members of the communities feel they have been taken advantage of because they are left with no tools to really lift themselves up. Vital Village does the opposite of that, which motivated Gayle to become a co-director of Vital Village’s Social Justice Mediation Program. People in the program share their life experience and give perspective on specific conflicts their community is facing. The goal of the program is to provide the leaders with the necessary skills to solve the problems they are facing. Being a co-director of the program has given Gayle the opportunity to meet over 100 community leaders that focus on many different issues. “Vital Village really is my village. I am there for Vital Village but I know Vital Village is there for me, and that is so comforting and empowering. I know that if I need a resource or connection, there is someone in that village there for me, and I try to be that for others in the village as well.” From teachers to parents to social workers, Gayle has been able to support people through their journey and build a vast network of people.

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The Importance of Technology Justice

Jenna Novy
By Jenna Novy

 

This past year of change has forced many of us to become reliant on technology for connection. We learn, work, talk, laugh, collaborate (and maybe even binge watch) through our screens. This transition has tested us all in different ways, and technology access is often taken for granted in our rush to adapt. We may not even realize our reliance on technology until the Internet abruptly cuts out in the middle of a Zoom call or a laptop takes a tumble off the kitchen counter. Technology Justice is a fairly new concept, but its importance has never been highlighted more than now. One of the many important aspects of Technology Justice is ensuring that everyone has the ability to access technology that can assist them in leading a life they value. 

As Vital Village Networks planned for its first-ever virtual National Community Leadership Summit in October, we realized that although virtual events can offer more opportunities for engagement, they can also be restrictive. Some participants may need to share devices, don’t have reliable internet, or are uncomfortable with navigating a virtual platform. With this in mind, we looked to our local community to learn how other organizations were addressing these technology challenges.

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Community Champion: Lucas Sensius

Tiffany Rodriguez, Program Coordinator, Vital Village Network
By Tiffany Rodriguez, Program Coordinator, Vital Village Network

Community Champion: Lucas Sensius

Organization: Vital Village NetworksAmeriCorps

Role: Community Mobilization Coordinator

Each fall, Vital Village Networks gratefully welcomes at least 2 Americorps VISTA members who support the local Boston work. Lucas joined Vital Village Networks for one year starting in the fall of 2019. Thank you for being a shining addition to our village, Lucas.

Q. Tell us about your role as an Americorps VISTA. What brought you to this program? What does your role as Community Mobilization Coordinator with Vital Village Network look like?
 
AmeriCorps stood out to me as a way to find and learn about organizations that focused on community and capacity building. As a Community Mobilization Coordinator, the biggest part of my job is consistency and communication, listening and learning from the community and working to connect organizations and individuals to help reach their goals. I have been able to see projects evolve to meet the challenges of physical distancing through continued dedication of community members and am so proud to have been a part of that.
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COVID-19 and the Reinforced Importance of Remote Work

Troy Biermann
By Troy Biermann

This is the first entry of a seven-part series focused on the adaptations made by Vital Village Networks and its community members during the current pandemic.

       Few people could’ve anticipated the impact that COVID-19 would have on the United States and our global community. From a distant problem, to a domestic concern, and finally to a full-blown national outbreak, the coronavirus ambushed people all across the US and interrupted typical work life and home life. The Vital Village Networks staff were no exception to this trend. With the onset of the pandemic came the need for VVN to transition to a completely different format of work, from one that emphasized physical, in-person engagement to one that necessitated physical distance and flexibility. But what was this like, how did it affect the VVN staff, and what kind of adaptations had to be made?

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A Journey of Growth and Compassion: Conrad Robinson

Camila Beiner
By Camila Beiner

Creating a Village

 A blog series profiling the work of community leaders across the country working to address the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice in their local communities. The series amplifies diverse leadership and the impact on communities, partnerships and members.

 Since becoming involved with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), Conrad Robinson has made it his mission to prioritize and recognize the needs of every family with which he works. “It's about being vulnerable, transparent, but also having compassion and understanding where people are coming from and supporting them through their journey,” Robinson describes his role at DCF as an Area Resource Coordinator where he works alongside supervisors, social workers, and managers to correctly identify the best placement for children at DCF. His department supports young adults between the ages of 18 to 22 who are transitioning from DCF to independent living. They also work with members of the local communities and families to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. Robinson, a long-time community leader with Vital Village Networks (VVN), eventually became a social worker and began to develop and implement plans for young adults who need direct social services, such as housing and mental health services. On top of his busy day job, Robinson also is the program director and lead faculty for the Certificate in Community Advocacy and Leadership program, a partnership between VVN and Urban College of Boston.

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