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Housing the Work

Over the past couple years, the Black Workers and Wellness Center’s role has predominantly been to offer space for a wide variety of community groups and events that support popular education and economic opportunities for Ward 7 and 8 residents.  

One such group, National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens, hosted its 1st Cohort of its “Ready to Work Program” at the BWWC. The program is designed to assist returning citizens in their transition back into the workforce. Members learned how to write a resume, deliver a 30 second pitch and participated in mock interviews to prepare them to find work. Since its introduction last year, 60% of the participants of the cohort were hired within two weeks of starting the program.

1st Cohort of the National ReEntry Network or Returning Citizens' “Ready to Work Program” at the BWWC

Willie Hill, founder of the Coming Home Coop

Willie M. Hill, founder of the Coming Home Coop

This summer, the Coming Home Coop also found a home in the BWWC. The Coming Home Coop is a new project whose purpose is to empower District of Columbia returning citizens and other justice-involved persons to work together to create financially stable futures for themselves and others. The Coop is operated by Haul Masters LLC, a local business owned by returning citizen entrepreneur Willie M. Hill, and is currently funded by the District of Columbia Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD). “The Coop’s mission intersects with the BWWC’s mission in various ways,” said project manager Clark. “By hosting our meetings at 2500 Martin Luther King Avenue, we hope to introduce returning citizen entrepreneurs to all that BWWC offers, and to support the Center through our rental fees. As the Coop grows and evolves, we are confident we will identify even more synergies between our respective missions.”

 

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The ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center is a member-led community & wellness space in Anacostia that builds racial & economic justice through popular education, organizing toward sustainable employment, & the incubation of economic alternatives such as worker cooperatives.

We are an organization with a membership base comprised of longtime DC residents who have been directly affected by displacement, gentrification, and structural unemployment. Our organizing model centers the voices of those who are ignored by wealthy developers and government officials. Our strength comes in numbers, and need YOU to help us build political strength in the District.

When you donate to our BWWC Capital Fundraising campaign, you are joining hundreds of others in making a community-controlled Black-led space in DC a reality. Please give today!


The Home Stretch

The ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center (BWWC) has been an evolving project for over five years, and we cannot thank you enough for your support in making this dream a reality. After years of grassroots fundraising from 963 donors to purchase the former United Black Fund, Inc. building, followed by clean-up by hard-working ONE DC members, the BWWC was opened to the public in early 2018. Over the last year, the BWWC has been operating as a vital community organizing center - a space for political education, the promotion of sustainable employment and worker-owned alternatives, and building power for racial and economic justice. In 2018, some of the projects developing out of the BWWC included: 

  • Cooperation DC, a project of ONE DC that works with residents to expand employment opportunities in low-income communities of color by developing worker-owned cooperative businesses and other alternatives to the capitalist system. 
  • Code on the Block, a coding program conducted by members for DC Ward 8 residents which aims to increase dignified and sustainable employment opportunities for Black DC residents
  • Worker Justice Clinics, where low-wage workers can receive free legal advice on employment matters from the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Workers Rights.
  • Black Workers Center Chorus, a group of 25+ members who perform movement songs at community actions, meetings, and events
  • Partnership with Laborer’s International Union of North America, LIUNA is one of the most progressive and diverse unions of construction workers. ONE DC works with LIUNA to offer job intakes in demolition and construction work and build collective power through the BWWC.

ONE DC members at a Learning Circle in the BWWC

 

BYP100's Black Joy Experience performs at 2018 Membership Appreciation

We are excited to update you on our upcoming full-scale renovation of the building, which we are undertaking with the help of Emotive Architecture, a local Black-owned architecture firm. As of February 2019, we have raised $1,025,000 of the $1,500,000 needed for the renovation. As we enter these final months of fundraising before the renovation begins, your support is more important than ever. The Share Fund has generously offered to match all money donated until April 16 (Emancipation Day) up to $100,000! That means for every dollar you donate, ONE DC will receive double that amount!

Please click here to donate to the Black Workers & Wellness Center now!

We will begin renovations in late summer 2019, with a focus on accessibility, climate consciousness, and inclusion. To do this, some of our expenses will include:

  • New elevator to provide access for all to basement and second floor - $100,000
  • Create accessible front and rear entrances with new ramps - $40,000
  • New front facade to create inviting and open entrance with large glass doors and patio - $100,000
  • New sprinkler system to maximize safety - $100,000
  • Maximize open meeting space for up to 175 people by relocating stairwells - $35,000
  • Excavate basement floor & renovate basement as usable cooperative incubator and wellness space - $130,000
  • Efficient new heating-cooling-ventilation system for clean air & comfortable environment - $200,000

Future Black Workers & Wellness Center facade

We have come so far already, and we are entering the final push before renovations begin this summer to secure the $1.5 million needed for these exciting updates. As a reminder, The Share Fund will match your donation if you donate now until April 16th!

Click here to support the renovation of the Black Workers & Wellness Center.

You can also mail your gift to ONE DC at PO Box 26049, Washington, DC 20001. Again, thank you for your continued support of ONE DC. We are deeply grateful for your generosity.

In Solidarity,

Kelly Iradukunda, Claire Cook, & Nawal Rajeh


What are we doing to build power? National Black Worker Center Project Convening - Raleigh, NC

 By BA Cockburn & Maurice Cook

November 14, 2018 in Raleigh North Carolina, the NBWCP held its annual convening with representatives from seven worker centers from across the country: Baltimore, Bay Area, LA, New Orleans, North Carolina, Chicago, and DC. The convening centered around connecting to the other centers, telling our collective story, and building power. “It’s not just about the local struggle but how we build a broader and more powerful movement.”

It was an insightful two days, where discussions and workshops included an overview of black economic history insights, the dangers of a single story, story telling, working while Black videos, and the benefits and challenges to being a part of the national network. Steven Pitts, NBWCP’s Board Chair, and Tanya Wallace Gobern, NBWCP’s Executive Director, welcomed the group and set the tone for the convening – “What are we doing to build power? We are the embodiment of survival and winning. There is power in our union, there is power in the entire working class. Our north star is the national movement to change the world to build power as a collective.”

This was not the usual gathering. Tanya had a very unique and meaningful introduction process. She randomly invited 8 to 10 attendees at a time to sit in a semi-circle at the front of the room. She asked each person to say their name and to tell the story of an ancestor’s work experience or moment of pride - to share who your people are, which says something about who you are. For one, it was a dad who always paid his unions dues so when they went on strike, the family had food. For another, it was an enslaved great grandmother who held on to her baby during a forced march at the end of the civil war; holding on meant that her child survived to grow up free and inspire a new generation.

To think about how we got to this moment in time and to remind ourselves of some key collective moments in the black economic history, we participated in a gallery walk. We walked around the room contemplating posters that depicted historical scenes such as Black Wall Street, Tulsa riots, and others. We talked about systems built in racism, public resources used to exploit people of color, strategy of wealth extraction, and cyclical issues and practices. The group brought up the need to remember positive key moments in history as a source of inspiration such as the 1892 New Orleans general strike, where the workers held strong against racism and gained most of their original demands. The group agreed that we need to celebrate ways that workers have overcome oppression. We want to remember that there has been a lot of pushback to force change throughout our history.

To frame the discussion around Black economic history, we watched Robert Reich’s video, The Big Picture.” Robert Reich is an economist and his video depicts his views about the policies driving the U.S. economic wealth gap from the 1940’s to today. It’s his view of how we got into this mess. NBWCP challenged the group to see what was missing from the Black worker’s point of view. The video’s perspective was from a white male. Black people were left out. The role of racism in the economy was left out. Anything that predated the 1940’s was left out.

So, how do we tell the Black economic story? What is the black workers’ story?  And, we need to be mindful of the danger of a single story. From the group, a theme came out of action and struggle, over and over again. Those in power tell one story but it’s not the only story. It’s just as important to tell the other story. By limiting the other story, we put people into boxed without realizing that we do. By being left out of the story, we are indoctrinated with antiblackness and it is hard to build solidarity. Black people are more than one story. Stereotypes develop when there is only one story. Repeating the myths robs people of their dignity. We need radical agitation – don’t run away from those difficult conversations. Stereotypes are tools of power. People buy in and internalize the stereotypes. We need to create new stories that are positive. To build a national movement of black workers, a wide variety of stories will help people connect to the movement. We have to win the hearts and minds of the masses to build our power.

So from the convening, a question rose: In 10 years from now, what is the impact that the BWWC will have on Washington DC? What is our big, audacious goal beyond supporting the economic survival of our people? How are we radically inspiring workers to imagine a world where we are in Power?


Circle-Keeper Training for Returning Citizens Hosted at the BWWC

By Myra Woods
The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens is holding a series of five training sessions to prepare the participants, many of whom are returned citizens, to become Circle-Keepers. The instruction is taking place at the ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center. We took advantage of the open space to create our relationship development circles, and explore a deeper understanding of traditionally indigenous tools and ceremonies for communicating. Our goals include assisting Returning Citizens in rebuilding their family and community relationships. We also intend to assist those participants in giving voice and offering respectful listening to every member of the Circle.


Circles begins with an expression of the values that participants bring to the circle. Some of the values expressed by our circle include respect, time, honesty, non-violence, self-awareness, integrity, strength, commitment, equality, and self-enlightenment. We have all agreed to adopt these values every time our circle comes together in support of Returning Citizens.

Values expressed by the circle


Each training session builds on the previous class. The traditions of Circle Keeping are discussed. Circle Keeping practices, building trust, identification of trauma, planning for Reintegration Support Circles and support circle processes are included in the learning plan. There are opportunities for practice, role play and sharing feedback.

The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens is thrilled to be able to conduct these classes in a space that has a long history of safety and building power with Black residents of the District of Columbia.


Grassroots DC Media Collective Moves into the Black Workers & Wellness Center

By Liane Scott
In October, the Grassroots DC Media Collective moved it’s headquarters into ONE DC’s Black Workers & Wellness Center. The Media Collective is a project of the nonprofit Grassroots DC and is an adult education and training program that combines the acquisition of marketable skills with political education, connecting progressive activists and advocacy groups with individuals who are directly impacted by the policies these organizations are working to change.

The Grassroots DC Media Collective provides production services to local nonprofits, advocacy and activist organizations. In the last year, we’ve produced two documentaries and more than two dozen short videos in support of issues such as police brutality, affordable housing, gun violence and street harassment.

Having relocated to the BWWC from We Act Radio, where we were welcomed but short on space, we plan to expand our classes and media production services. For more information about the work of the Media Collective you can visit our website at GrassrootsDC.org, our Youtube Channel, or contact Liane@grassrootsdc.org.

Miheema and John Goodine, two Grassroots DC Media Collective Members already at work at the BWWC.

Community Celebration & Fundraiser at the ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center

On Saturday, October 20, Resource Generation sponsored a community celebration and fundraiser as a kick-off event to raise $300,000 for renovations to the ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center. The event lasted from 5:00 to 11:00 PM, with a program featuring performances by the Black Workers Chorus, SAMAI.YAH, Twin Jude, BYP100's The Black Joy Experience, Pontiannà Ivàn, Yon Cové, and Ras Lidj & Deep Band. Food was catered by Oohs & Aahs.

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SAMAI.YAH Twin Jude

At the event, we received word that Live to Give Foundation will grant a matching donation for up to $100,000 raised through the end of the year. With another $25,000 pledge and $8,000 in donations received through the course of the event, we are on our way to meeting our goal of $300,000!

Help us reach our goal by donating today.

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New temporary banner at the BWWC Community artwork welcomes members to the space

 


Summertime Cooperation: Co-op Community Cookout

On August 4, the Black Workers and Wellness Center (BWWC) hosted ONE DC’S first Co-op Community Cookout event of the year. Following up from a successful People’s Platform event in February, Cooperation DC held a summer cookout event in order to engage in popular education about cooperative economics while gathering community and enjoying food with one another. The Black Workers and Wellness Center was a full house that day! We spent our time reviewing the Seven Cooperative Principles and understanding how they work to address shortcomings experienced in the workplace. We explored how Cooperation DC’s work fits into ONE DC’s overall vision for building people-driven power in Ward 8 and throughout the District.

ONE DC members learn about the 7 cooperative principles

As use of the Black Workers and Wellness Center expands through building renovations and new staff organizer positions, we look forward to building on the growing excitement around our co-op work by hosting more events like this in the coming year! Stay tuned for fall updates from our two partner cooperatives: Dulce Hogar Cleaning Cooperative and Co-Familia Child Care Cooperative, and from the Working World Cooperative Organizing Retreat.

7 Cooperative Principles

  1. VOLUNTARY AND OPEN MEMBERSHIP
    Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, whose services and membership are open to all due to having minimal barriers of accessibility.
  2. DEMOCRATIC MEMBER CONTROL
    Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Co-operative members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote), and are typically structured in a way that does not resemble traditional business leadership.
  3. MEMBER ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION
    Members contribute equitably to collectively own the money and assets of their co-operative. Members put profit towards any of the following purposes: developing their co-operative; benefiting members based on interaction with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
  4. AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE
    Co-operatives are autonomous, self-maintaining organizations controlled by their members. Agreements that may be made with other organizations and institutions and any funds they get from outside of the co-operative are processed in a way that keeps democratic control and ownership over the co-operative.
  5. EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INFORMATION
    Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, and worker-owners so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public, especially in the communities they occupy, about the nature and benefits of the cooperative movement and other popular and political education topics.
  6. CO-OPERATION AMONG CO-OPERATIVES
    Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the Co-operative Movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures. Co-operatives are conscious about how their decisions may affect other co-ops and are concerned for the well-being of those co-ops.
  7. CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY
    Co-operatives work in the best interest of the communities in which they reside. They are open to providing support and resources for community members in need.

BWC Hosts Children's Studio School "Anacostia Reimagined" Art Exhibit

By IBe' Crawley

The Children's Studio School (CSS), founded 41 years ago by Marcia McDonell, exhibited the Children of Mine Youth Center's summer culminating exhibit 'Anacostia Reimagined' at the ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center on July 26, 2018. In the children's summer experience of multi-dimensional studios, 39 children ages 4 to 14 engaged in architecture, engineering, construction, and city planning.

The children participated in identifying and defining the future businesses and buildings for their community. IBe' Crawley of IBe' Arts created the curriculum and coordinated the four studios at the Children of Mine Youth Center for CSS. The arts educators -- Uptown Shane, Courtney Dowe, and Roderick Turner -- engaged the children in discussions, visualization, and creation of an Anacostia that reflects the children's love and families.


A special thanks is extended to ONE DC for hosting the 'Anacostia Reimagined' presentation. In addition to being a visually beautiful representation of buildings, maps, and drawings, the storytelling and singing demonstrated the verbal and writing skills the children developed in this summer experience. The parents and community members filled ONE DC to capacity with love and pride for their children contribution to the Anacostia resource mapping the organization is currently engaged in. Click here to watch video from the exhibit.


Celebrating the Commons - Emancipation Day 2018

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Drummers from MOMIE's TLC introduced the program

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Native Washingtonians participate in ritual burning of the settlement sheet

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ONE DC members pose outside the building after the banner drop!

Click here to view more photos from the event

Black Workers & Wellness Center Updates
In recent weeks, the BWC has begun to take shape for its meeting and training functions this summer. On a shoestring budget and with volunteer help, some basic improvements and planning are underway:

  • Interior walls have been repaired and waterproofing done to stabilize the building
  • One main floor wall was demolished to begin the opening up of the floor plan for larger meeting use
  • Interior mold has been eliminated, and all carpeting removed (by fantastic volunteers) to move toward having an allergen-free environment, with our dumpster subsidized by Capital Construction Group
  • Exciting first steps taken with our architects at Emotive Architecture: we have measured building plans for the first time and held our first community space planning discussion with our two architects, and expect their initial report soon
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Click here to donate to the renovation fundraising campaign!


Resources from the Community, For the Community

By Rebecca Harris, ONE DC member

Raising more than $5,000 for the Black Workers & Wellness Center, Showing Up for Racial Justice DC (SURJ) & ONE DC hosted a teach-in fundraiser on November 13th featuring Congress member Keith Ellison, the first Black Muslim individual ever elected to Congress.

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This event represents only one piece of ONE DC’s larger campaign to raise $1.2 million to purchase a building to permanently house the Black Workers & Wellness Center (BWC) in Anacostia. The BWC is a member-led space that builds racial and economic justice through popular education, direct action, and worker-owned alternatives.

“It’s so critical to have this Black Workers Center, because so much of what we experience as oppression is economic,” Ellison said at the teach-in on November 13th. Though it’s critical that we respond to violent acts of racism, he continued, “if you don’t understand that the very root of that [violence] is trying to impose poverty on people, then you’ve missed so much of what racism is really all about.” Ellison noted that the Black-white wealth gap has roots in racist practices ranging from modern developers’ assault on urban Black communities to the Department of Agriculture’s displacement of Black landowning farmers over the course of more than a century.

Congress member Ellison also emphasized the importance of Black landownership, a priority for ONE DC. As Ellison noted, the decline of Black homeownership over the past few decades -- driven by exploitative mortgages and unchecked gentrification -- represents a tremendous blow to Black wealth overall. By buying a building in Anacostia to permanently house the BWC, ONE DC is at once laying a foundation for sustainable organizing and laying claim to a piece of what ONE DC organizer Dominic Moulden has called "the last frontier of working people" in this city.

The teach-in, which took place at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, also featured Dominic Moulden, Resource Organizer for ONE DC; Delvone Michael, Senior Political Strategist for the Working Families Party; Yasmina Mrabet, People’s Platform Organizer for ONE DC, Eugene Puryear, Director of Field Operations for Justice First, and Delonte (Tae) Wilkins, Black Workers Center Organizer for ONE DC.

Keith Ellison’s full remarks can be watched online here.

Support our capital campaign for the Black Workers & Wellness Center today.