School Segregation and Equity in New Jersey


Nearly 100 education, civil rights, labor, faith and local elected leaders gathered on November 30, 2018 to discuss the pressing issue of school segregation in New Jersey.

The symposium organized by the Urban League of Essex County and Building One New Jersey held at Bloomfield College grappled with “problem, consequences and solutions to New Jersey's racially segregated schools”.

The convening included experts, civil rights lawyers and historians and well as educators, parents and practitioners.

Vivian Cox Fraser, CEO of the Urban League of Essex County said the purpose was to “promote discussion and honest dialogue as well as to seek input about possible remedies to the lawsuit”.

The Urban League of Essex County is one of the plaintiffs in a sweeping lawsuit against the state of New Jersey arguing that New Jersey schools are “intensely segregated” and in violation of the state’s own constitution.

Civil Rights Lawyer and retired Rutgers professor Paul Tractenberg presented data from a new report he co-authored, the New Promise of School Integration and the Old Problem of Extreme Segregation: An Action Plan for New Jersey. 

Historians Leslie Wilson from Montclair State University and Khalil Gibran Muhammad of the Harvard Kennedy School provided historical context and personal stories that highlighted the underlying causes as well as the political, social and economic structures underpinning segregation in our society.

Professor Muhammad told the gathering that historically segregated schools were “no accident”. Their purpose, he said, was, and is, “to prepare black children for a life of servitude”. Professor Wilson warned of unintended but harmful consequences from previous efforts to achieve integration saying “we have to think hard and carefully about the outcomes we want from a meaningful school desegregation remedy”.

After a brief presentation on a draft framework for a legislative remedy by Building One New Jersey, a panel of five superintendents from an array of diverse school districts gave their reaction and provided some of their thoughts on the issue.

Thomas Ficarra, South Orange Maplewood School District, shared his experiences serving in three diverse suburban school districts: Morristown, Hamilton (Mercer County) and n0w Maplewood / South Orange School. Dr. Kendra Johnson of Montclair Public Schools talked of the importance of power dynamics when addressing racial disparities. Dr. Miguel Hernandez of Haledon Public Schools spoke about the role of relationship building among students and parents as key to success in his district. Dr. Christine Johnson cautioned about the role of private and charter schools in perpetuating segregation in an otherwise diverse district. Finally, Dr. Rocco Tomazic of Freehold Borough argued that while there were many problems to consider in addressing school segregation, a "bigger and bolder" approach to a remedy was the better way to go.

Audience members including labor leaders, local elected officials, parents and school board members, weighed in with comments and questions that reinforced the sentiment that big and bold over meek and mild was the direction the group wanted to go.

Conference organizers and participants agreed to hold similar gatherings across the state with practitioners and stakeholders and to engage legislative leadership about advancing a meaningful and inclusive process for addressing the problem and the lawsuit.






School Segregation and Equity in New Jersey

Sponsored by the Urban League of Essex County and Building One New Jersey.  



Khalil Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School


Paul Tractenberg, Rutgers Law School, Professor of Law Emeritus Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor

Dr. Kendra Johnson, Montclair Public Schools Superintendent

Thomas Ficarra, South Orange Maplewood School District, Interim Superintendent

Vivian Cox Fraser, President & CEO, Urban League of Essex County

Rocco Tomazic, Freehold Borough Public Schools, Superintendent

Christine Johnson, Hoboken School District, Superintendent

Leslie Wilson, Montclair State University, Associate Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences 

Miguel Hernandez, Haledon Public Schools, Superintendent

Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, Board Member, Bloomfield College







Robyn Brady Ince, Vice President, Education Policy and Advocacy, National Urban League








Combating School Segregation in New Jersey


A Plan for Promoting Inclusion and School Integration in New Jersey

On May 17, 2018 a lawsuit was filed against the state of New Jersey claiming the level of racial and economic segregation in its public schools violated its own constitution. Building One New Jersey, a group of civic, faith, community and education leaders gathered from across the state to support a positive outcome to that challenge. Building One America, the Summit for Civil Rights Project and the Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity are all providing support for this work.

To join this effort please go to this link to sign up for a Regional Organizing Committee and for Individual and Institutional membership

The group formed a steering committee and agreed to organize gatherings in different parts of the state as “listening sessions”. The meetings will seek input on the remedy from local constituency groups and leaders including school board members, parents, teachers, students and administrators as well as local elected leaders, labor leaders, local civil rights leaders and faith leaders. The effort will emphasize multiracial leadership among constituencies and in places we believe need to be included and to have their voices heard.

We agreed that we would approve an initial set of “guiding principles” as a basis for the conversations and to present relevant facts about each region and the districts as they relate to current levels of school segregation and potential outcomes of the litigation.

We will draw on our networks of civil rights, law and policy experts in New Jersey and nationally through Building One America as well as our own experienced constituency leaders and members of the state steering committee and regional organizing committees. In addition, will be providing trainings for leaders of key constituencies and organizations to prepare of ourselves for what is expected to be a protracted campaign around this very critical issue.

To join this effort please go to this link to sign up for a Regional Organizing Committee and for Individual and Institutional membership. 

Below is the outline of our plan:


  1. Develop a target list of districts that we believe need to be included and have an important role to play in a remedy. Our emphasis will be on diverse or increasingly diverse middle class and working class communities. [1].
  2.  We will seek to expand the members of the state steering committee. We will work to ensure geographical, racial, ethnic, gender balance, as well as representation of key constituencies and areas of expertise and experience.  
  3. We will secure a meeting with the Governor and/or appropriate members of the Murphy Administration and legislative leadership. We will use this meeting to seek support and buy-in for this process. 
  4. We will divide up the state into sub regions that include clusters of targeted school districts. This will be based on multiple criteria including legislative, housing regions[2], and county and municipal boundaries.[3]
  5. We will identify and recruit key leaders in each of these regions and sub regions to:
  • Form an organizing committee
  • Set a date for their regional listening event
  • Begin to initiate a plan of action based on a template[4] we prepare and make available.

Each regional gathering will be designed to solicit input and reactions to a set of recommendations.

Each regional gathering will seek to include:

  • School administrators
  • Board members
  • Parent and teacher organizations
  • NJEA affiliate rank and file leadership
  • Student organizations
  • Clergy and faith leaders
  • Civil Rights organizations
  • Civic organizations
  • Legislative and local elected leaders

Each regional gathering will have a similar format:

  • Explain lawsuit
  • Provide some analysis on segregation and diversity in districts
  • Get feedback (panel of leaders and experts)
  • Offer and explain principles
  • Get buy-in (panel of leaders and experts)
  • Next steps - invitation to join

And should end with commitments to:

  • Continue and expand the conversation with the regional organizing committee
  • Provide ongoing input and representation to the state steering committee
  • Send representatives to a statewide gathering in early spring with Governor and legislative leadership
  • Solicit reaction to the principles and input on remedy
  • Secure a commitment to principles of inclusion, sustainability and opportunity

Organizing and Leadership Training - Building One New Jersey will provide 4 day leadership training in November of 2018 and/or January of 2019 for up to 40 leaders at each training.These leaders will be recruited as potential organizers and/or steering committee members. Shorter trainings will be offered at the regional level throughout the process to build support and secure allies.
Fundraising - This effort will require more significant financial support as it shifts to becoming an ongoing campaign with a need for organizational support. A structure for dues, membership fees, sponsorships and training fees will be developed and funds will be solicited from members, participants, allies and potential corporate and charitable donors a well as labor unions.
The Steering Committee will deliberate - Toward the end of 2018, a significantly broader and more informed steering committee will consult with civil rights, education experts and political leaders to further narrow its recommendations for a remedy.

Our primary criteria will be that a remedy has to:

  • Have realpotential to be transformative for students and communities
  • Can be achieved legislatively and be broadly supported
  • Be economically viable and politically sustainable.

There will be a large, statewide gathering in early 2019. This gathering will include the Governor, the Education Commissioner, and key legislative leadership. It will also include education and community leaders from across the state. The meeting will set seek to secure initial commitments from the governor and legislative leadership to support the group's recommendations. A joint legislative committee will be proposed to hold hearings on the topic.

Regional groups will re-gather. Meetings will be organized throughout the state to build more support among community leaders and legislators for the recommendations.

Leaders will provide local and national expert testimony and witnesses for legislative hearings. 

Building One New Jersey and the Statewide Steering Committee Continue to campaign. We will provide logistical and communication support and leadership training for what will now be a public campaign to powerfully address New Jersey’s shameful structures of inequality in education.

[1]  Our list emphasizes and prioritizes the more fiscally strained and economically and racially diverse communities. These are mostly suburbs. This is not to exclude “non-diverse” communities (often cities and exurbs). All districts will be invited. It is more to ensure that diverse communities (often middle and working class suburbs) have a role and a voice. It is our belief that these communities have an important part to play in building multiracial, middle class support for a remedy that is both positive and broadly backed. The exclusion of these communities often leads to misunderstanding and polarization.

[2] Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) regions.

[3] BONJ has a structure (Local District Councils) that will be used as a starting point for determining the sub regions.

[4] This template will provide a suggested approach to organizing the gatherings. It will include recommended steps for communication and recruitment as well as a suggested program template that can be tailored for each region and improved upon by the local leaders as they proceed.

To join this effort please go to this link to sign up for a Regional Organizing Committee and for Individual and Institutional membership 

Links to supporting documents



Summit for Civil Rights

The Summit for Civil Rights

November 9–10, 2017

At the University of Minnesota Law School, Mondale Hall

Presented by Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity & Building One America

With generoussupport from The Kresge Foundation

The Summit for Civil Rights, held on November 9 and 10, 2017 at the University of Minnesota Law School, was a powerful expression of the people and institutions representing the forces of racial justice, social equity, inclusion and economic opportunity.

Hundreds of delegates, panelists, participants and speakers came from across the country from labor, civil rights, law, academia, the faith community, local government and national politics.The Summit demonstrated how enduring racial disparities and growing economic inequality were interconnected and mutually reinforcing problems in

American society, inextricably tied to our racially segregated structures of opportunity and power. The Summit revealed the ways in which many of those structures and institutions (including in housing, finance, education, employment and law) sustain and even profit from segregation and racial inequality.

The Summit drew lessons from our Civil Rights past to help us better understand the challenges today, who our common enemies are, and strategies for building the power needed to achieve breakthroughs against modern American Apartheid. Moreover, it showed us how the fight for racial justice and economic opportunity are one in the same and that only through that fight (and a unified agenda) can we build and sustain a multiracial political majority.

Below is a summary of the conference:

After an opening reflection by Rev. Doug Mork of Interfaith Worker Justice and a Welcome from Dean Garry Jenkins,  Professors William Jones and Myron Orfield opened the meeting.

The Summit’s opening speaker, Catherine Lhamon, Chair of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights, provided historical context for the progress toward equal opportunity in America as well as the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement and the threats we face today. 

Myron Orfield and a panel of experts and practitioners, moderated by Algernon Austin, gave us a stark reminder of this threat in a session titled “The Scourge of Segregation”. Orfield and panelists Paul Jargowsky, Lisa Rice and Alexander Polikoff discussed the broader impact and terrible costs of segregation in modern 

American life, warping politics, eroding cities and older submits, destroying schools, fracturing the workforce, and undermining efforts to provide economic and social justice for both the poor and middle class.

A second panel titled “How We Got Here,” moderated by Demetria McCain of the Inclusive Communities Project began with a brief presentation by David Rusk on the structural underpinnings of modern American Apartheid, including the myriad of state and national policies that have built and sustained it over the past 50 years. Panelists Bruce Haynes, 

Julian Vasquez Heilig and Betsey Julian reflected on the historical roots and real life implications of American segregation, including its role in the fracturing of working class alliances and the related politics that drive wealth and income inequality in America.

The evening session closed with a powerful speech by Derrick Johnson, the newly elected president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored P

eople (NAACP). President Johnson’s talk tied the afternoon together and set up the next day's discussion by drawing on the history of the NAACP and reminding Summit attendees that racial oppression, segregation and hatred have always been tools for the exploitation and the subjugation of working people of all colors.

A reception was held to welcome the Summit attendees and to pay tribute to Vice President Walter Mondale for the courageous role how many years of public service and especially for the role he played in the passage of the Fair Housing Act as a young Senator from Minnesota. 

In the morning after an introduction by University President Eric Kaler, Professor Will Jones moderated a dynamic discussion between Vice President Mondale and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina on the forgotten history of the Civil Rights Movement - titled “Learning from the past to create a new, more just, future.”
Both Mondale and Clyburn told compelling and powerful stories from their own past to help reveal important and relevant lessons for today's challenges and struggles.
Vice President Mondale reminded us that racial segregation continues to be a central evil denying opportunity to millions of people and poisoning our politics while keeping us from realizing our true potential as a fully inclusive and socially just society.   

This discussion was then expanded to include a prestigious panel of leaders from labor and civil rights including Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers, William E. Spriggs, AFL-CIO and Howard University, Theodore M. Shaw, University of North Carolina School of Law and former head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Judy Beard of  the American Postal Workers Union. Panelists described the role of black workers, black leaders, and the fight for civil rights in building the power of the American labor movement in the 20th century. Panelists also described the role segregation and segregationists played (and still play) in undermining and splitting the power of organized labor and the need for a renewed alliance between labor and civil rights in America. 




Myron Orfield then presented a challenge to the group to consider the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement, especially the key elements of institutional power from labor, civil rights organizations, the courts and the faith community. He also reminded us that it took money, training, political and economic analysis, and organizing to build the multiracial power that defeated Jim Crow in the last century.
Orfield reminded us that many middle and working class African Americans today live in suburbs, along with working class whites, ethnic minorities and recent immigrants. These places, especially the more diverse, racially changing suburbs, hold the key to power in American politics and are ideal targets for organizing a new, multiracial coalition to support policies of inclusion and racial, social and economic justice.

A multiracial panel of constituency leaders responded. Panelists included  Rev. Terrence Melvin, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Tracey Schultz Kobylarz, Redford Twp, MI, Dr. Timothy Tee Boddie, Progressive National Baptist Church, Dr. Kimberly McGlonn, Jenkintown Borough Council, PA and Gregory Floyd, Teamsters Local 237 in New York.
Panelists each spoke of the way segregation and segregated power have impacted their organizations and harmed their constituencies. Each spoke of the contributions and progress their organizations have made in promoting inclusion and multiracial power. Panelists, however, also spoke of the limitations they and their constituencies faced and the need for broader alliances, such as those at the Summit, but also the need for racial inclusion at the highest levels of power including in politics and in the labor movement. 

In response to the challenge, Summit attendees and participants broke into three groups - litigation, legislation and organizing - and took initial steps toward forming a leadership structure to continue the work of the Summit and the goal of renewing and reinvigorating the Civil Rights Movement. After report backs and closing statements, Summit attendees agreed to reconvene in the new year to discuss and take next steps for organizing and for action. It was further agreed that a joint coordinating committee would be formed among a diverse group of leaders from each of the working groups. In the coming weeks, representatives of this committee will produce a draft document outlining the proposed purpose, goals and strategic direction of the Summit for participants’ input and review.


Click here to view Sponsorship Opportunities 

Click here for list of Speakers

Click here for Summary of Program

Click here for PDF of Sponsorship Packages

Click here to donate

The Summit for Civil Rights 2017 Sponsors


Building One New Jersey 2017 Policy Forum

School Integration and Funding Equity

Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Building One New Jersey and Mercer County Community College hosted a conversation on segregation and school funding with Professor Myron Orfield, law professor, author, civil-rights attorney, and director of the Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity.

The meeting tool place on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 (On the Eve of the Anniversary of the Brown v. Board Decision) at the James Kerney Campus  Mercer County Community College in Trenton.

The capacity meeting was attended by nearly 100 leaders including school boards Trenton, superintendents, union leaders, teachers, clergy, local elected officials and civil rights leaders.

linked here is the presentation and summary of the meeting. 

the group will meet next during the Summit for Inclusive and Sustainable Communities at Rutgers Camden on July 21. 

63 years after theBrowndecision, New Jersey remains one of the most economically and racially segregated school systems in the nation – and not coincidentally, it boasts some of the nation’s highest property taxes.

These two forces have combined to exacerbate an already deepening crisis in high poverty urban districts while driving up taxes, widening disparities and fueling resentment in increasingly diverse, middle class suburbs - tensions that have been expertly exploited by those seeking to benefit both politically and financially.  Unless we grapple directly and meaningfully with the glaring issue of racial segregation in our schools and regions, we will be unable to understand and defend against the exploitation of and attacks on public education, educators, and the public sector in general.  And the costs, both human and economic, will continue to rise.

Building One New Jersey is convening this gathering of educators, civil-rights and community leaders from cities and suburbs to discuss the opportunities before us to address both issues - school segregation and fair school funding - together and to seek lasting solutions that move us all closer to the ideals that we as a nation and a state aspire. 

In addition to Professor Orfield, speakers include Thelma Napoleon-Smith, daughter of Berline Williams. Ms. Williams spearheaded the 1944 New Jersey school desegregation case, laying the groundwork for the Brown case ten years later. Also, Andrea Torrice, award winning documentary filmmaker and producer of the new film Fire of Justice, chronicling the struggle of parents and students in an Ohio town that became the setting for the first Northern desegregation case testing the ruling delivered by the Supreme Court 

Following the forum there will be an opportunity for a private viewing of the exhibition Schools for the Colored by renowned photographer Wendell A. White.

For information, to register, or sponsor this important conversation visit

Summit for Inclusive Communities and Sustainable Regions

Building One America will hold its 5th biennial national Summit on July 21, 2017

Over the past 8 years, Building One America has worked to bring attention to increasingly diverse, middle-class communities across the country. We see these places as key to building multi-racial, middle and working-class constituencies needed to address some of our nation’s most pressing problems including racial segregation, fair and inclusive economic growth, and sustainable development.

The failure on the part of many of our nation's leaders to recognize and understand these communities has only contributed to the toxic level of polarization we are experiencing today with serious implications for racial injustice, growing economic inequality, environmental degradation and continued government dysfunction.

Because of this failure, our work since our last national summit has focused on engaging and recruiting groups and constituencies with the greatest self-interest in promoting a diverse, inclusive, and growing middle-class while developing a unifying narrative, policy agenda, and an organizing base that helps move us forward as a country.

These groups include:

  • Civil Rights organizations
  • Faith based institutions
  • Organized Labor
  • Local government and school district leadership

The issues we advance:

  • Regional infrastructure investments in water, sewer, road, and transit to promote inclusive middle-class jobs, and bolster diverse and sustainable communities
  • Public schools that promote middle-class opportunity while challenging racial segregation and debilitating concentrated poverty
  • Fair housing policies that promote regional diversity, reduce segregation and create stable, healthy communities

The themes we will explore:

  • The state of diverse, middle-class America:
    • Demographic changes: social, economic, racial, and structural
    • The challenges and the promise of diverse middle class suburbs
    • The role of the suburbs in the recent national election and the implications for state and national politics
  • Labor and Civil Rights:
    • Drawing on the lessons of their historic relationship and the power of their still overlapping constituencies and interests
    • Uniting the parallel but intersecting themes of racial justice and economic inequality
  • The crisis and enduring legacy of the ghetto
    • Revealing and understanding the central role of America’s racial apartheid as a force for political polarization; private profits; an attack on the public sector and organized labor; and the exploitation of both the urban poor and suburban middle class.

Organizing we will promote:

  • Participants will be challenged, supported and trained in taking effective and strategic action to better organize their constituencies and coalitions, to defend our shared values, and advance a common agenda.

This year’s summit will not be in DC. It is being hosted by our partner, the Rutgers Center for Urban Research and Education (CURE) led by Paul Jargowsky, author of the book Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City, at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ. Rutgers is a 7-minute subway ride to and from Center City, Philadelphia. Lodging will be available in downtown Philadelphia near Penn’s Landing as well nearby Cherry Hill, and on the Rutgers campus. Early registration is now avaiable at or register here:

Event Date: 
Friday, July 21, 2017 - 9:00am to 4:00pm
Event location: 
Rutgers Campus Center 326 Penn St. Camden, NJ 08102
Event Fee: 
BOA Members $100 Non-Members $125 EARLY REGISTRATION (BEFORE JUNE 23) BOA Members $75 Non-Members $100

Building One New Jersey

Restoring the Historic and Powerful Alliance of Labor and Civil Rights for Racial Justice and Economic Opportunity

Building One America held its first in a series Labor / Civil Rights forums in New Jersey on December 17, 2015 with national speakers and local union leaders joined by prominent clergy, civil-rights and civic leaders from across the state.

The forum, expertly moderated by Dr. Diane Campbell and Rev. John Scotland of Building One New Jersey, was opened by Rev. Dr. Guy Campbell, President of the General Baptist Convention followed by a moving primer on the all too forgotten history of organized labor and the civil rights movement by A. Philip Randolph Institute President, Clayola Brown.

After a sobering presentation (the Architecture of Segregation) about the shameful continued existence and dramatic growth of racial segregation in American and the tragic consequences of concentrated poverty by Paul Jargowsky of the Center for Urban Research and Urban Education at Rutgers University, a panel of local leaders provided meaningful context. 

Each offered powerful insight from their own stories and discussed the real-life implications for their organization’s members, families, and communities.

Panelists included Sherryl Gordon of AFSCME Council 1, Sean Spiller from the New Jersey Education Association, Milly Silva with 1199 SEIU, Richard Tolson of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and Lionel Leach of the Communication Workers of America Local 1039.

After a stirring call to actionfrom Rev. Terrence Melvin, president of the International Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, leaders from each of the participating labor, religious and civil rights groups committed to participate with Building One New Jersey to build on the day’s success.

They committed to reconvene early in 2016 to initiate a program of leadership training and action to advance and promote economic opportunity and racial inclusion around the issues of housing, schools, jobs and justice.

The day closed with a message of support and solidarity from prominent national NAACP board member, Ambassador Philip Murphy.

Building One New Jersey and Building One America want to thank the generous sponsors who made this forum possible: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ, Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, IUOE Local 68, LIUNA Local 55, Local 195, IFPTE, Senate President Steve Sweeney, NJ Education Association, PBA Local 105, SEIU 1199, AFSCME Council 1, Shiloh Baptist Church, Isles, Inc, Community Presbyterian Church, CWA Local 1039, CWA Local 1084, Murphy Endeavors LLC, PA Conference of Teamsters 

May 6 Labor/Civil Rights Forum - Building One Ohio

Restoring the Historic and Powerful Alliance

of Labor and Civil Rights

for Racial Justice

and Economic Opportunity

Friday, May 6, 2016 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Cleveland State University, Wolstein Center

Featured Speakers:

  • Clayola Brown  National President, A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), AFL-CIO, Vice President, Workers United-SEIU. Civil Rights Director under the repositioned union Workers United, an SEIU affiliate. Member of the General Executive Board of Workers United since its formation in March 2009.  Former member, AFL-CIO Executive Council, and current Director of the Amalgamated Bank.
  • David Rusk  Founding President of Building One America, he is an internationally-known consultant on urban policy who has worked with more than 120 US communities including many in Ohio. Former federal Labor Department official, New Mexico legislator, and mayor of Albuquerque, the USA’s 32nd largest city

  • Marc Bayard  Associate Fellow and Director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative. Founding Executive Director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University, he is a leading expert on racial equity and organizing strategies with extensive experience in building partnerships between labor, faith groups, and civil rights communities.

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Leadership Training Institute for Inclusive Communities


June 14-17 2018 at Cleveland State University  

Cosponsored by North Shore AFL-CIO       

Because space is limited, interested individuals must apply to participate in this program.  The application is available online and can be accessed HERE. There is no charge to apply.



Demographic diversity has been increasing throughout American society. While membership - and even leadership - in many organizations have reflected this change, power and decision-making often fail to keep up with the racial, ethnic, generational and gender make up of our communities and institutions, including labor unions, local government, and religious congregations. This failure has left us weaker and more vulnerable to attacks from those who do not share our values of inclusion and opportunity.

One reason for this persistent power gap is that we often confuse the visual trappings of diversity and policies of inclusion with genuine integration and political equality. When members of underrepresented groups are appointed to or secure leadership positions, they frequently begin at a significant disadvantage. Generational layers of power, privilege and experience, and networks of formal and informal relationships,are at play in any public arena where leadership matters, power is wielded, and important decisions get made. These dynamics are taken for granted or denied by the powerful, while too often unseen or not easily understood by the powerless. We frequently find ourselves in organizations, committees, boards and leadership structures that are diverse in name and appearance, but in reality are decidedly lopsided when it comes to the exercise of power.

As Frederick Douglass famously reminded us, power never did and never will be given away by those who have it to those who don’t. Building One America’s training does not claim to make people more powerful or institutions more divers, but it does help to equip emerging leaders from diverse backgrounds to better understand and navigate the dynamics of power and politics,  and to have the tools to compete more effectively and further themselves in the public arena. Moreover, it will help individual leaders to recognize more clearly their own potential and motivations to build a powerful and meaningful public life.

Because space is limited, interested individuals must apply to participate in this program.  The application is available online and can be accessed HERE. There is no charge to apply


Who: This training is for leaders from all over America who want to become more effective in making a difference – including organizers, leaders and volunteers from the faith community, labor unions, electoral politics, public office holders and grassroots rank-and-file leaders. 

What: The training teaches ordinary people to unleash their capacity to impact the social, political, environmental, and economic decisions affecting their lives. The training has been designed and will be conducted by experienced organizers affiliated with Building One America. The training is unique in combining elements of leadership training developed over the past fifty years by national community organizing networks, with a contemporary analysis and strategy for developing multiracial institutional and social power to build more inclusive and equitable communities.

Topics covered include:

  • An orientation and reflection on power
  • Understanding self-interest as a way to build membership, engage allies and adversaries, and become a more focused and self-motivated leader
  • The role, value, and techniques of one-on-one organizing
  • Conducting and understanding a power analysis
  • Distinguishing the “public” from the “private” in order to build an effective public life
  • The key principles and elements of strategy and tactics and issues and action
  • Identifying and developing leaders
  • The importance of organized money
  • Principles and techniques for effective meetings
  • Personal reflection, strategic planning and developing a personal path to power

The training is not just an intellectual exercise. It challenges and helps emerging and existing leaders to identify, reflect on, and overcome internalized attitudes and beliefs that stand in the way of becoming more powerful. The goal is to produce more powerful leaders and to facilitate the expansion of more powerful and more unified multiracial coalitions and power structures.

When:  The training will take place over four days starting Thursday, June 14 and ending Sunday, June 17, 2018. 

Where: Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115

Cost: Tuition plus room and board is $450 per participant

Because space is limited, interested individuals must apply to participate in this program.  The application is available online and can be accessed HERE. There is no charge to apply.

Event Date: 
Thursday, June 14, 2018 - 9:00am to Sunday, June 17, 2018 - 5:00pm
Event location: 
Cleveland State University
Event Fee: 
Tuition is $450 per participant (including lodging and meals)

December 17 Labor/Civil Rights Forum - Building One New Jersey

Restoring the Historic and Powerful Alliance of Labor and Civil Rights for Racial Justice and Economic Opportunity

December 17, 2015 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
The Conference Center at Mercer
1200 Old Trenton Road West Windsor NJ 08550 

Featured Speakers:

  • Rev. Terrence Melvin, president of the International Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and secretary-treasurer of the powerful New York State AFL-CIO 
  • Clayola Brown, national president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), AFL-CIO 
  • Paul Jargowsky, director of the Center for Urban Research and Urban Education at Rutgers University and author of the Architecture of Segregation - Civil Unrest, the Concentration of Poverty, and Public Policy

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