Annual membership meeting focuses on grassroots leadership

Posted by: By KFTC Staff on August 25, 2014

One of KFTC’s goals of organizing is to have fun, and members proved they know how to do that at KFTC’s 2014 annual membership meeting, even as they took a serious look at Kentucky issues and the role of grassroots leadership.

About 200 KFTC members came together August 22-24 at General Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton around the theme “From the Grassroots to the Mountaintop: Empowering Grassroots Leaders.” Woven with many conversations both structured and informal about Kentucky issues were discussions about grassroots leadership – what it looks like, who’s a leader, how leaders become leaders and how grassroots leadership development can change the world.

In between serious conversations, members found time to hug old friends and meet new ones, honor each other for work well done at Saturday’s awards banquet, share their talents at a cultural sharing showcase, and show off their moves at a dance party. The crowd for the annual meeting was one of the youngest and most diverse in KFTC’s history, with many first-time attendees.

The weekend kicked off with a keynote address by poet Bianca Spriggs on Friday night. In addition to sharing her poetry, Spriggs talked with KFTC members about the role of collaboration in making change.

Participants dug in to the topic of leadership development on Saturday with a report from members who attended a recent Our Power gathering in Richmond, California, that brought together frontline communities from across the country to build a movement for a just transition toward local, living economies. Members Chris Woolery and Elizabeth Sanders spoke of the important connections they made to others who are working for social justice.

Vivian Yi Huang, campaign and organizing director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), which co-hosted the Our Power gathering, was KFTC’s guest for the annual meeting and was the featured speaker on Saturday. APEN works with immigrant and refugee communities in California and has taken on such polluters as Chevron.

Heard at the 2014 KFTC Annual Membership Meeting

“I know I am in the room with the right people.”

—Poet Bianca Spriggs
in Friday’s keynote address

“Fighting the good fight is really fun.”

Chris Woolery
Anderson County

“The world is changing all the time, but when you have consistency in grassroots leadership, you can face those changes.”

Elizabeth Sanders
Letcher County

“We are all leaders. We are the people at the grassroots. We are the people on the mountaintop.”

Meta Mendel-Reyes
Madison County

“We’re all leaders in this room.”

Tayna Fogle
Fayette County

“The movement needs all kinds of people, all kinds of personalities.”

Robert Gipe
Harlan County

“I think we’ve gotta all get uncomfortable or the work we want to do is never going to get done.”

Anthony Smith
Jefferson County

“We know we’re going to get there because we know we’re on the right side of justice.”

Vivian Yi Huang
Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

“We face so many similarities in our struggle, our vision and our work,” Huang said of KFTC and APEN. 

Her awareness of herself as a leader began when she took a college course in which the final project was to demonstrate how many people you could organize. “Some of the first people I organized were my parents.”

In her evolution as a leader, Huang has had to stretch and grow beyond what she thought she could do and challenge others to do the same. She described a friend who would repeat to herself: “My belief in social justice is stronger than my fear.”

“Our belief in social justice is stronger than our fears, and we can overcome our fears,” she told the KFTC crowd.

Organizing can be powerful with a few people, but it takes leadership development to go deep and broad and have more impact, Huang said.

“We are the leaders that we’ve all been waiting for.”

When asked how to keep people motivated through a long fight, Huang said: “Realize there is injustice in the world, but we are a part of helping to fight that.”

“We know we’re going to get there because we know we’re on the right side of justice.”

Then KFTC members heard from a panel of grassroots leaders about their own experiences with leadership development.

Anthony Smith works in the mayor’s office in Louisville to create better outcomes for young black men. He said many leaders do not think of themselves as leaders but they become leaders in the eyes of others because of what they empower others to do.

Tanya Torp founded an organization in Lexington called Be Bold that works to empower young women. She talked about “quiet folks who are just waiting for someone to inspire them.”

Maria Lopez of the Kentucky Dream Coalition shared her experience of being an undocumented immigrant who didn’t think she had anything to offer as a leader.

Dana Beasley Brown of the Southern Kentucky KFTC chapter shared some of her story of growing up in poverty and finding her voice through KFTC. “Every time I tell my story it’s healing for me and brings me to a place of feeling empowered.” (Beasley Brown was elected statewide chair on Sunday morning).

Robert Gipe directs the Appalachian Center at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Harlan County and was a founder of the Higher Ground theater productions that have examined eastern Kentucky issues through drama. He described the importance of finding common ground on issues that can be divisive. “You gotta remember that we all are trying to do our best at some level.”

Panelists agreed that leadership development means getting outside your comfort zone and learning from others.

“Make sure that you attach yourself to someone that’s going to make you think,” said Smith.

Saturday afternoon workshops covered youth organizing, art and culture in organizing, organizing across lines of difference, voter empowerment, resolving conflict, and what leadership development means at KFTC. Sunday workshops all emphasized bringing others into KFTC’s work through stories, art and culture. The six Let’s Talk! workshops focused on sharing with others about: racial justice and white privilege; working for our new economy; a just transition in Appalachia; energy, coal and climate change; voting rights; and fairness.

At the annual business meeting on Sunday, members elected officers for the KFTC Executive Committee and Kentucky Coalition Board, approved all 13 chapters to remain a chapter for another year, and adopted the 2014-15 KFTC Platform.

The annual silent auction, filled with items donated by KFTC members, raised nearly $1,300 and stimulated lively competition among members.

See the next issue of Balancing the Scales for a full list of officers and award winners.

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Poet Bianca Spriggs opens KFTC annual meeting

Posted by: By KFTC Staff on August 23, 2014

Affrilachian poet Bianca Spriggs opened KFTC’s annual meeting by sharing her work and talking with participants about the meaning of collaboration.

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Wilderness Trace hosts a great Barn Bash, gears up for fall

Posted by: KFTC staff on August 21, 2014

With another summer comes another Wilderness Trace Barn Bash, and this year's was a hoot! On Saturday, July 12, the Wilderness Trace KFTC chapter hosted its second annual Barn Bash at Woodwind Farm in Junction City, where the music, weather, food, and company all made for a great combination to celebrate KFTC's work over the past year and to invite others to join in the fun of working for social change. 

Barn Bash 2014

People who came hungry were delighted to find a great assortment of dishes. Local food was front-and-center as all the meat at this year's event came from nearby Springfield producers, Rising Sons Beef and River Run Farm & Pottery. Providing quality local food at a low price to Barn Bash guests was made possible in large part to event sponsor, Stuart Powell. Members felt that showcasing local food fit in well with the chapter's values and hope to continue grilling local meat at future events.

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Transition Stories: Eastern Kentucky Social Club binds Lynch community

Posted by: KFTC Staff on August 14, 2014

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Jefferson County members talk tax reform with mayor

Posted by: Linda Stettenbenz on August 7, 2014

A small group of Jefferson County chapter members met with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer last month to find common ground about the need for revenue.

The meeting came about as a result of an encounter in March between KFTC members and the mayor in Frankfort. Members were in Frankfort for our Economic Justice Lobby Day to lift up the need for fair and adequate statewide tax reform; Mayor Fischer was seeking support for his local option sales tax initiative. KFTC decided to oppose the local option sales tax mostly because it takes more from the budgets of low-income people than from higher-income people.  There has also been concern that revenue from it would not be sustainable or flexible enough to meet community needs. 

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Louisville Metro Council unanimously passes resolution supporting Voting Rights Restoration in Kentucky

Posted by: Bonifacio Aleman on August 7, 2014

We Did It!!!

Louisville Metro Council once again made history last month by passing the Resolution supporting the Restoration of Voting Rights to Former Felons in Kentucky with a unanimous vote of 19-0!

Going into the July 24 Metro Council hearing, the Resolution had 11 bi-partisan co-sponsors. Once the Resolution was brought to the floor for discussion, five more Metro Council members (bi-partisan, again!) signed on as co-sponsors.  With no opposition on Metro Council, or from the chambers, the Resolution passed, with several Metro Council members going on record about why voting rights matter, and why this resolution is so important.

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Great food served up by Rowan members at music fest

Posted by: Annie Adams on August 2, 2014

The Rowan County Chapter held its annual fundraiser at the Old Time Music Festival, which took place at Jaycee Farm in Morehead on July 25 and 26. This was the fifth year the chapter worked the festival, and the fourth it served as the sole food vendor.

Rowan 2014 fundraiserThe chapter set up two food stations, a KFTC informational table with KFTC merchandise, and a spacious eating pavilion.

Ted Withrow oversaw the primary food station, which offered vegetarian and non-vegetarian soup beans and corn bread, hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches (with slaw), fried taters and fresh corn.

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Kentucky lawmaker praises EPA Clean Power Plan

Posted by: Lisa Abbott on July 31, 2014

Over the next few weeks we will share some of the powerful public statements made by Kentuckians to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the agency's proposed Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Below is testimony given at a hearing yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia by Joni Jenkins, who represents Kentucky's 44th House District in the state legislature.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.  My name is Joni Jenkins and I represent Kentucky House District 44 in the Kentucky General Assembly.  The 44th district is South of the Louisville, right on the banks of the Ohio River.

It is home to hard working, mostly blue collar, workers who strive everyday to raise their children for a brighter future. The 44th District is also home to 2 coal fired power plants with 2 coal ash landfills and coal ash ponds.  

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Kentuckians to EPA: Act on climate, protect health, support a Just Transition

Posted by: Lisa Abbott on July 30, 2014

Kentuckians in Atlanta for EPA climate hearing

Kentucky was well represented by grassroots voices at the first hearings held this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Forty citizens from Owensboro, Bowling Green, Louisville, Lexington, Morehead, Berea, Burnside, Inez, Hazard and Whitesburg made the long drive from Kentucky to Atlanta, Georgia on July 28-29 to urge the EPA to strengthen the draft power plant rules. In addition, a KFTC member from Harlan County spoke at the EPA hearing in Denver, Colorado, along with allies from other Central Appalachian states.

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KFTC will be pilot site with Climate Justice Alliance

Posted by: KFTC Staff on July 23, 2014

KFTC has signed on to become a pilot site for the Climate Justice Alliance, a coalition of 40 organizations and networks working together to create a new analysis and a new “center of gravity” in the policy conversation about climate – informed by impacted communities.

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Rising Kentucky Voices: Coming Together for Tax Fairness

Posted by: Sarah Martin on July 17, 2014

Central KY Chapter Member Sarah Martin was among a group of folks with low-wage work experience who went to Washington, D.C. in April to lobby for closing corporate tax loopholes and raising the minimum wage. Right now, these corporate tax loopholes exist as the "tax extenders" that Sarah will reference in this blog. Congress isn't expected to act on these until after the election.

Corporate tax loopholes also exist as "inversions." (Hang in there, and remember, tax policies language is wonky to keep us away!) Those "inversions" recently allowed Pfizer to claim itself as a United Kingdom company, thereby avoiding paying taxes in the U.S. With that in mind, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and 13 Senate co-sponsors (including Sen. Elizabeth Warren), and Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) with nine House co-sponsors, introduced companion bills yesterday to close these “inversion” loopholes.
We hope to learn more, and track the involvement of Kentucky's delegation. In the meantime, check out Sarah's story about why she went to Washington, and why she'll go back.

It’s 8 AM on a Monday morning and as our bus creeps through D.C. traffic, CKY Chapter Member Greg Capillo, CKY Chapter Organizer Beth Howard, and myself have a quick breakfast. We think we are on our way to the White House to participate in a direct action regarding immigration reform and deportation policies. While that plan is true, there is a “quick” stop to make before we arrive at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It turns out that we are on our way to a secret action. We are told to not broadcast any information on social media or to communicate with anyone what we’re doing until the action is complete. We are also told that when the buses arrive, we need to exit as quickly as possible, and that conference staff, in fluorescent vests, will direct us to run inside of the building to gather in the lobby.

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