Opening doors to justice – welcoming Reverend Willie Keaton and an update on our work

In Affordable Housing, criminal justice, Home, Local Level Advocacy, Queens University, Uncategorized by Judy SchindlerLeave a Comment

We welcome Reverend Willie Keaton as a justice organizer at the Stan Greenspon Center. He will be working part time to support each of our advocacy teams and to support our overall advocacy work.  When he is not working for justice in the community, he is Pastor of Mt. Olive Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. This next week he will be walking in the graduation ceremony at Drew University to celebrate the Doctorate of Ministry he received in December 2018.  He dissertation was on Mass Incarceration.

Reverend Keaton moved to Charlotte in July of 2018 from Jersey City where he was actively involved as a strategy team leader with Jersey City Together (a congregation-based community organizing entity affiliated with Industrial Areas Foundation). He organized campaigns around affordable housing, criminal justice, and education. He also worked with the NAACP as chair of the labor and industry committee.

What are you most excited about doing with the Stan Greenspon Center?

I am most excited about organizing the community and organizing people to come together who share concerns regarding social justice issues in our Queen City. I am optimistic about our future as the Greenspon Center looks to make Charlotte the city we can be during this challenging time we live in.

What has impressed you?

I have been impressed with the amount of work the Greenspon Center has done in a relatively short time. It speaks to the passion and dedication of its volunteers. Organizing is difficult work where people can get frustrated.  The work that they’ve done speaks to the ability for the Greenspon Center to get work done. Charlotte is dealing with the same systemic issues that Jersey City was dealing with. I feel that Jersey City prepared me to be in Charlotte for this point in time.

James Lee has developed the framework for an exhaustive initiative designed to gather stories and hear from the community of Firestone

The Affordable Housing Team is progressing nicely and expecting to build off this momentum in the coming months. Steve Cohen has been working tirelessly prepping for our meetings with County Commissioners which started this past Tuesday.  We are exploring the role that the County can play in expanding affordable housing.   We invite volunteers to join us for these meetings to assist with our advocacy.

We are also excited to announce a Firestone Listening Campaign.  The County is considering donating an edge of Firestone Park, which is underutilized, in order to develop affordable housing.  We are asking for volunteers to join us as we spend two Saturdays knocking on doors and partnering with grassroots organizations and religious institutions in the community.  James Lee has developed the framework for an exhaustive initiative designed to gather stories and hear from the community of Firestone regarding their needs and concerns. If you are interested in volunteering to join these meetings with our County Commissioners or support the listening campaign, please contact Willie Keaton at Lastly, if your congregation is interested in learning more about how to use its resources for affordable housing, check out or contact Judy Seldin-Cohen.  Our committee will be meeting on Tuesday, May 14 from 6:00-7:30 pm. Location to be announced.

The Immigrant Justice Team continues to forge ahead to seek data surrounding the activities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in our state. Our joint letter sent in April was ignored. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has been submitted arguing it is in the public´s interest to have full accountability and transparency with respect to federal government activity occurring in our state. The Committee plans to reach out to our representatives and pressure them to obtain this data as well as have a conversation on their views and platforms regarding immigration.  The Committee is also monitoring the findings of the Immigrant Community Committee of Charlotte, and their next steps regarding support for the communities. Our committee will be meeting on Tuesday, June 4 from 5:00-6:30 pm at the Stan Greenspon Center at Queens University of Charlotte. To get engaged with the immigrant justice team, please contact Barbara Randolph at

The Criminal Justice Team has been discussing bail reform, expungements and reentry. The following are our conclusions:

We decided that bail reform is heading in the right direction with the recent Court Order that encouraged doing away with cash bail in many types of cases and will follow-up to see what the impact has been with the changes.  Just this past week, District Attorney Spencer Merriweather was the featured speaker at the YWCA to discuss bail reform.
With respect to expungements, we agreed that the best route forward is to partner with the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  Our members will volunteer to assist in the screening process.  Attorney Natalia Botella has reached out to Greenspon members who are interested in volunteering. They will start with a training in June. If you are interested in joining this initiative, please email Robert Coppel at
The last issue that piqued our interest was developing a plan for a program that will focus on the challenging issues of reentry after people are released from jail or prison.  This event will include showing the movie “Life after Life” followed by a panel moderated by Willie Keaton and including people who have been directly impacted by reentry.  At our next meeting on Tuesday, June 4 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm at the Stan Greenspon Center we will continue this discussion and finalize the plan.

The Health Care Justice Team address the ways in which health care justice is missing in our current health care system. Over 30 million people are uninsured and over 40 million people are underinsured. Underinsured is where people have insurance but can’t afford the copay, deductible, or medicine. These 70 million people are disproportionally minorities and minimum wage employees. As a result, their health outcomes are far worse than the general population. To address this situation, our Health Care Justice Team has been engaged in community speaking events. We have been busy with the following events:

  • In April, the movie “Fix-It” was presented to a group of students from Queens as well as to several groups throughout the community. Each showing was followed by a panel discussion. A dozen students expressed interest in being on the student group for health care justice.
  • In mid-April, Wendall Potter presented to the Queens’ community and the outside community about how the insurance industry is set up for profit not services to respond to the health needs of those insured. Wendall Potter has written several books, blogs, and policy pieces on the subject.
  • At the end of April, the Health Care Justice Team presented and moderated a panel on health care access for mental health to the local chapter of Zeta Phi Beta sorority.

In total, the Health Care Justice Team participated in seven events and spread the message to over 500 people about health care justice. The presentations included recent developments, potential solutions, and a call to action.  To become part of this work contact Susan Rucker at

Photo by Filip Kominik

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