Important Upcoming Restoration Events :
Update on the Kellogg Initiative-Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation from our board member, Jona Burton :
One of our board members, Jona Burton, recently attended a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Orientation Session in Canton, MS. Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation is an initiative of the Kellogg Foundation to increase healing dialogue around race in America. This past January, Steps Coalition participated in Kellogg's National Day of Racial Healing and received declarations from six major Coast cities declaring January 17th as the National Day of Racial Healing--Pass Christian, Ocean Springs, D'Iberville, Gulfport, Gautier, and Biloxi. We also hosted a racial healing prayer ceremony including faith leaders from Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Jewish faiths. Finally, Steps Coalition's previous director, Roberta Avila, and current board member, Glenn Cobb, conducted a racial healing ceremony in Gulfport which included their police force and Mayor Billy Hewes of Gulfport as well as various local community members. Ms. Burton's attendance at the orientation session last month is part of Steps Coalition's effort to continue this work.
Steps Coalition Newsletter-July 2017
|Steps Coalition Welcomes New Executive Director!|
|Steps Coalition would like to formally announce our new Executive Director, Mr. Gregory Brown! Mr. Brown comes to us from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and brings with him a wealth of resources and knowledge in the area of nonprofit management.
Mr. Brown has served nonprofits and disadvantaged communities domestically throughout the United States and overseas in Central America for many years. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from American University and a Master's degree from George Washington University in Organizational Management, both located in Washington DC.
His most recent professional duties and responsibilities include serving as a Senior Managing Partner, Organizational Development/Management Consultant for Vertex Innovation in Costa Rica and as the Co-CEO and Founder of Organizational Bridges, LLC. He also serves as the Executive Director for Global Chamber® Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Mr. Brown has served in diverse roles and worn multiple hats throughout his career which include serving as a Nonprofit Executive Director, Fundraiser, Housing Counselor, Community Organizer and Nonprofit Board Executive Officer.
Mr. Brown has secured $16.6 million dollars in funding for nonprofits and government agencies in the USA for programs, projects and operating support and has provided consulting, technical assistance, and training throughout the USA to over 300 nonprofits, local and municipal government agencies, faith based organizations, social service, and community economic development programs and projects for clients domestically and internationally. Mr. Brown has also provided his services to educate and empower youth in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. He also served as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
Mr. Brown has worked with nationally recognized Washington, DC organizations committed to social changers and community empowerment such as the Center for Community Change, Neighbor-Works, Community Planning Development Office of HUD, Center for Technical Assistance and Training and Campaign for Human Development (US Catholic Conference).
He is dedicated to developing leadership, increasing economic resources and empowering low-income residents, community groups--especially disadvantaged ethnic and cultural minority groups, constituencies and youth.
Steps Coalition Welcomes New Program Assistant and New Community Organizer!
Steps Coalition also welcomes its new Program Assistant, Crystal Hay, and its new Community Organizer, Brenna Landis. Their bios may be found at Steps' website here.
Update from Howard Page, Port Campaign Organizer
On June 22, 2017, the Port Campaign Coalitionheld a public meeting at the Good Deeds Community Center. An update on job creation revealed that the Port of Gulfport presently has less jobs than when the Port restoration started. The Port continues to struggle to meet the promised job creation goals. Of the 425 jobs claimed at the port, over 300 are hotel jobs in housekeeping, not maritime jobs as originally promised.
Numerous environmental actions that will affect residents of Gulfport need to go through a permitting process. SeaOne Gulfport, LLC, a gas export facility, needs permits for two new pipelines that will travel from I-10 to the Port. SeaOne has not held a public meeting to present a plan for the facility.
The north Port property located at the intersection of 34th Avenue and 33rd Street is contaminated with lead and arsenic in the soil and groundwater. This property is a proposed site for warehouse facilities. The use of this contaminated site for Port activities raises concerns of spreading the soil and water contamination to nearby residents.
The 435-acre wetland fill proposed by the City of Gulfport and Ward Investments is stalled. The City of Gulfport and Ward Investments need to decide if they will proceed with a request for a permit to fill in 435-acres of wetlands in North Gulfport. This wetland fill raises the risk of flooding and displacing residents.
There is a considerable amount of impact proposed in North Gulfport from gas pipelines to large wetland fills to the use of contaminated properties. The Port Campaign Coalition (PCC), will monitor the permit processes and inform community members as soon as there is a chance for public participation.
The PCC is also working with their legal team to comment on the final EIS for the further expansion of the Port of Gulfport.
Attorney Robert Wiygul of Waltzer, Wiygul, & Garside Law Firm in Ocean Springs, filed a letter of intent to sue the city's contractor in Biloxi on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN). The Restore Biloxi Infrastructure Repair Program's North Contract project has gone on for years in East Biloxi with poor storm water management that fills local waterways with sediment and creates conditions in Biloxi that have harmed residents and caused businesses to close. GRN and their attorney will be working with the city's contractor, Oscar Renda Contracting, Inc., to resolve the problems and correct the harms created by this project.
Steps Coalition member, East Biloxi Community Collaborative (EBCC), is also working on a campaign to organize East Biloxi residents and business owners affected by the ongoing North Contract work. This campaign is called "East Biloxi In Motion." To view their Facebook page and updates on community meetings surrounding the road project in East Biloxi, please click here.
To see a recent article in The Sun Herald on the Restore Biloxi North Contract suit, click here.
Update from Ya-Sin Shabazz, Gulf Coast Regional Collaborative Project Director
The Steps Coalition's Gulf Coast Regional Collaborative (GCRC) project is preparing to enter its second year of advancing language access, community and stakeholder organizing, and economic and workforce development with a number of new faces around the table. Gregory Brown and Crystal Hay, Steps Coalition's new Executive Director and Program Assistant respectively, are teaming with Ya-Sin Shabazz, GCRC's new Project Director, to continue the work of improving family
economic security for displaced Vietnamese-American fishermen.
Shabazz, who transitioned from a representative of project partner Hijra House, to the Project Director position is replaced by Mahdi Suluki as the current Hijra House representative to the GCRC. Daniel Le of Biloxi-based Boat People SOS, Daniel and Khai Nguyen of New Orleans-based Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC, and John Jopling of the Mississippi Center for Justice add years of project knowledge, expertise, and success as the experienced members of the team.
The goal of the GCRC is to advance racial equity and increase family economic security for Vietnamese-American Fisher-Folks by way of and educating and engaging Vietnamese-American residents, African-American residents, and other BP Oil-Spill impacted communities along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast.
An upcoming July 22nd event in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi aims to increase awareness, interest, and engagement in RESTORE Act processes by highlighting the New Orleans, LA East work of MQVN's Veggie Co-op for residents of Hancock and West Harrison County, Mississippi. Find out more about GCRC's collaborative Celebration of A-Bun-Dance here, and come out, meet some of our newest representatives and supporters, and enjoy the educational and fun celebration for restoration.
Update from Brenna Landis, Steps Coalition Community Organizer
Brenna began her role as community organizer at the end of June 2017 and has been volunteering with Steps Coalition since the spring of 2016.
Brenna is now the Project Manager for Steps Coalition's role in the Mobilizing for Health project that works hand in hand with Boat People SOS to work to improve the quality of healthcare and language access for Vietnamese Americans in East Biloxi as well as multiple other community-based organizations helping Gulf Coast residents. The Mobilizing for Health project had a successful Cultural Competency Training session in April that was well attended by multiple MS Dept. of Health staff members as well as local community health organizations' staff members. This training focused on the history of the multiple waves of Vietnamese immigrants since the Vietnam War to the Gulf Coast and on educating the healthcare community on the culture of Vietnamese Americans and ways to better communicate and respect cultural differences.
Brenna is also working under a newly secured grant for the "Solar Together" project to create a constituency on the MS Gulf Coast that is educated on the economic, environmental, and community empowerment cases for solar energy in Mississippi. Brenna is working with Mark Isaacs of Bay St. Louis with GS Research LLC to engage the public on the MS Gulf Coast surrounding the benefits under the new net metering laws which recently passed just last year.
Brenna is also working with the Cherokee Concerned Citizens group of Pascagoula to engage with industry officials and local municipal and county officials to create better communication and to hold industry accountable for its impact on the community.
In Pascagoula, Gulf Restoration Network and Cherokee Concerned Citizens have taken legal action against VT Halter Marine, Inc. Halter has allowed huge amounts of air pollution to leave their site polluting nearby waterways and harming local residents' health and property. Halter has been fined by the MS Dept. of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and is under order to clean up their air pollution. However, Halter continues to spew air pollution, and MDEQ allows it to continue. The legal action will attempt to correct the problems Halter and MDEQ have created.