Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Prosperity Miami initiative kicks off in Overtown

Local organizations launch effort to provide direct services and to increase civic engagement in Miami-Dade County neighborhoods

The effort, funded by Allegany Franciscan Ministries, aims to provide residents with direct services while engaging them in a dialogue about policy issues impacting their communities and how they can become involved in creating change

MIAMI, Florida – On September 14, 2015, Catalyst Miami, a nonprofit organization helping families become prosperous and civically engaged, officially kicked off “Prosperity Miami,” an initiative to offer direct services and to increase civic engagement in Miami-Dade County. Catalyst Miami has partnered with South Florida Voices for Working Families and New Florida Majority Education Fund to canvass ten neighborhoods and to engage 8,000 families. The goal is two-fold: to provide families with essential services and to connect them with opportunities to become civically active. The civic engagement opportunities include voter registration, U.S. citizenship application, participation in leadership development programs, participation in community organizing trainings, and more.

For many low-income families, accessing direct services is a challenge. The family caretaker has to worry about making an appointment, getting permission to miss work, accessing transportation, figuring out childcare, and, most importantly, losing income. These challenges make it hard for families to access social services that can improve their quality of life. It’s also a challenge to engage in civic activities when there are so many other pressing issues of concern.

To mitigate these challenges, Catalyst Miami will offer on-the-spot enrollment services at weekly Prosperity Miami neighborhood fairs, as well as community health fairs, churches, job sites, school open houses, and back-to-school events in ten neighborhoods, including Coconut Grove, Downtown, Florida City, Hialeah, Homestead, Liberty City, Little Haiti, Little Havana, Overtown, and Sweetwater. According to U.S. Census data, these ten neighborhoods have the highest numbers of uninsured and underinsured children and families, families at risk of becoming uninsured, families medically underserved due to low-income/asset-limited status, and individuals and families impacted by the five-year ban on permanent residents.   

“Catalyst Miami is eager to begin this pilot and reboot our Prosperity Campaign. We are ready to bring our services to our clients, meeting them as close to home as possible. We are also grateful for our partners in this endeavor. New Florida Majority Education Fund and South Florida Voices for Working Families bring community connections and civic engagement opportunities to Prosperity Miami, helping us fulfill our mission,” said Gretchen Beesing, Chief Executive Officer of Catalyst Miami.

Prosperity Miami kicked off in Overtown at the YWCA of Greater Miami, located on 351 NW 5th Street, on Monday, September 14th. Dozens of canvassers knocked on doors from 3:00-5:00pm to inform families about the services and opportunities being offered.


Catalyst Miami is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting families and community organizations by improving health, education, and economic outcomes in South Florida.  

New Florida Majority Education Fund is a statewide organization working to increase the voting power and influence of African Americans, Latinos, new immigrants, and working families towards a more inclusive, equitable Florida.

South Florida Voices for Working Families is a coalition of community, union and faith-based organizations working together to win improvements in the quality of life for working people in the South Florida area.

Examining Social Justice in a Post-9/11 World

By: Camilo Mejía 

This past Friday marked 14 years since the September 11 attacks, an event that drastically changed the course of American foreign policy and led to a series of US military interventions throughout the Middle East. The event also changed many aspects of our lives, from people's right to due process, to widespread state surveillance, to the relationship between law enforcement agencies and the public. The Social Justice Table, a network of social justice organizations working to create social change in Miami-Dade County, in partnership with the Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy (iCED) at Miami Dade College, hosted a panel discussion to consider all the changes that have taken place and to explore community-centered approaches that address national security while preserving people’s right to privacy and redress grievances.

The panel discussion was preceded by a service component organized by iCED and largely driven by Miami-Dade College students who collected non-perishable items and assembled a PB&J sandwich line. The non-perishables were donated to Stand Down, a national organization dedicated to eradicating homelessness in the veteran community, while the PB&J sandwiches were donated to the Miami Rescue Mission, a local shelter serving the greater homeless community since 1922.

“Having a service component to benefit charity groups is a good thing,” remarked Scot Evans, professor at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development, “… but having a service component followed by a discussion looking into why there is a need for charity is even better.” 

The panel discussion that followed offered participants an overview of foreign and domestic policy changes resulting from the 9/11 attacks, looking into the rationale behind the US invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq in the context of international law, and the change in state vs public relationship as contextualized by the Patriot Act and other domestic policy changes.

Then the audience got to hear about the first-hand experiences of a local organizer who has been active in the Occupy movement in Miami and other social justice movements, such as the March Against Monsanto and the People’s Climate March. The panelists challenged participants to imagine ways to address safety and security concerns while protecting people’s right to organize and demand positive social change, and the moderator encouraged the audience to join local social justice initiatives.

As always, participants were invited to regroup at a local venue for some unstructured social networking after the panel and group discussions. Around 20 Social Justice Table partners shared food and drink and continued exchanging ideas and information at the social hour.

The next Social Justice Justice Gathering will take place on October 12 at Catalyst Miami, and will provide an opportunity for social justice partners and allies to contribute to the People’s Climate March, happening on October 14, by making signs and banners for the march while enjoying food and drink during our unstructured networking time.

For more information, contact Camilo Mejía at camilom@catalystmiami.org.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

This Labor Day: Americans Reflect on Good Jobs

Pictured: Roxy Azuaje

Roxy Azuaje, Public Allies and Youth Manager at Catalyst Miami, was recently invited to participate in the Workshift Rockefeller + Purpose Good Jobs Campaign. We are proud that she was able to share her story on past work experiences and how her current job is the definition of a "good job." 

The Workshift campaign is a national campaign that seeks to change the way Americans think and talk about good jobs in the United States today. In order to build a more equitable, inclusive economy, Workshift is creating a space for workers, communities, employers, and policymakers to join together in a conversation about what it means to create good jobs for all. WorkShift aims to set a new standard for what makes a job a good job that is grounded in the personal experiences and basic needs of the modern American worker.
Spotlight: Roxy Azuaje
After immigrating to Florida from Venezuela as a young woman, Roxy Azuaje worked in odd jobs — restaurants, nanny, photo assistant, TV production and nonprofits — before securing a full-time position in her field. Now she works as a Public Allies and Youth Manager for a nonprofit in Miami and has good benefits, paid time off, flexibility, and is proud of her job. Having worked across many jobs — both good and bad — Roxy has a unique perspective on the things that are most critical in a job in America today.
“I’m proud in my current job to work with great people that truly care for others. The content of our work helps the community, but the organization itself also believes to do that you need fair and just policies internally. We’re treated fairly, given vacation, and paid time off. My boss really invests in me, both in helping to develop my skills, but also making sure I feel valued.” Roxy Azuaje

To learn more about the Workshift campaign, go to http://workshift.us/. #GoodJobsForAll.