Empowering Houston Leaders in 2015
2015 was a great year for Empower Houston Leaders (EHL).
This year we had five classes from Alief to Greater Third Ward to Downtown Houston. The classes graduated over 50 leaders and were as diverse as the City of Houston. EHL's fluidity, and adaptability to the interest, relevancy, and needs of each group were highlighted this year. Rather than a program that is rigid and focused on each step, EHL evolves, adapts, and focuses on the individual group's interest and progress.
Once members of each class were educated about Direct Action Organizing, the project groups moved directly into action. We kicked off the year with our Women's EHL. Two main projects emerged from the group. One was a project to conserve historical music from the community and a concert was held to raise money for the conservation effort. The other project sought to provide a trip to Ghana for teens to learn about where they came from and its influence on where they were going. This project also held a Sankofa, a Ghana word meaning Go back and get it, concert. Both of these projects worked with other groups in the community to hold the concerts and the women in the class learned first hand how to network successfully and reciprocative support works.
Our downtown class focused was a Social Justice EHL. The group focused on recent events that highlighted inequality in the treatment of people of color by authorities. The group learned how to organize and how to connect in a meaningful way with local politicians and police. The group worked to provide opportunities for youth and police to communicate in an open environment, invited local community leaders, and even worked with Congressman Al Green. They also networked with other nonprofit to pool resources and provide additional information. Their projects are ongoing and we expect to see big things from them. in the coming year.
We had three classes in Alief with very diverse interests. The first was a Alief Community EHL, which focused on identifying needs of the Alief community. The group met at the Community Center and had a wide range of interest from Park Development to a Cop Watch group. The class members focused on asking what the community wanted through surveys and then put their new knowledge of Direct Action Organizing skills to good use by helping to reinvigorate actions with the HTown Cop Watch Group and founded the Alief Friends of the Park. One of our graduates from this Alief group Barbara Quattro headed the Alief SuperNeighborhood Council. It's always exciting to work with dedicated people, but Barbara brought a whole new intensity to the group with her love of outdoor spaces and the commitment to improving accessibility.
Our second Alief class was a Teen EHL and was held at our Falls of Bellaire Resource Center. This summer class worked in the center and helped with summer activities. However, the group chose to look ahead to the Fall for their project and held a Back to School Supply drive. Having had a difficult time obtaining school supplies when they went to school, the teens knew exactly what it felt like to start falling behind from the very beginning. The group not only learned how to do community outreach for donations, but also worked with other community groups and donated additional materials to other community drives when they finished their drive.
Finally, we started a Parent EHL with a group of parents from Albright Elementary. The group initially met at the School, but soon chose to meet near by to expand their ability to access other community resources. The group's main focus was to learn how to advocate for parent's needs like resources guides to community groups, mentoring, and addressing problems with the school and school policy. One example was the need for acceptable identification, so parents could pick up their children from school. They also sought a way to connect parents who were having difficulty accessing resources to raise funds for food. By the end of the year, they were looking at fundraising efforts like organizing yard sales.
It was a busy productive year in 2015, but we're looking ahead to the opportunities in 2016 like teaching community leaders how to empower their community for healthy living and working with the Alief School District on bringing EHL to more schools and parents. It's going to be a very empowering year!