LAFF Society


News about Former Foundation Staff: 6/2018


For several days and nights in July 1967, violent riots paralyzed Newark, N.J., and left 26 people dead, hundreds injured and the city in ruins. Now, 50 years later, Newark is described as a “city that is rising”.
Its long, agonizing and ultimately hopeful transformation began with an unvarnished, comprehensive study of the conditions that led to the eruption and included recommendations that “challenged the elected leadership…and insisted on profound changes in the city, county and state”.
Sanford M. Jaffe was the executive director of the study, and he revisits its work and the changes in Newark since it released its findings a year after the riots in an article published in The Newark Star-Ledger on April 8: “50 years after the riots: Confronting Newark’s ills head on have paid off”.
Jaffe is co-director of the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, based at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. After the Newark study was completed he went to work in the Government and Law program at the Ford Foundation, staying there until 1983.
Clearly, he writes, there are lessons to be learned from the manner in which the Governor’s Select Commission on Civil Disorders carried out its mandate and from the 99 recommendations it produced. 
“….the commission left no area of the city—its governance, economy, housing, educational system—untouched by its inquiries,” Jaffe writes, “{s}paring no sacred cows….” The report, he writes, was “the effect of the profoundly moving education the commissioners received as they met daily over three months”.  
The commissioners, who included two former governors, a former Supreme Court justice, two bishops and “easily the state’s most prominent African-American attorney”, gradually developed “a compelling sense of outrage as it learned more about what took place and what lay below it: inattention to the needs and aspirations of the black community and the absence of opportunities across the board”.   
Today, he writes, as a result of the community’s shifting attitudes and “commitment to change”, Newark is “a major hub for business, education and entertainment. High school graduation rates have improved dramatically. And it’s even one of the nation’s 20 finalists in bidding to land Amazon’s second North American headquarters that’s promising to provide up to 50,000 jobs”. 
Michael Lipsky is a member of the governing council of the new Native American Budget and Policy Institute, based at the University of New Mexico, whose stated goal is that by “synthesizing indigenous wisdom with hard-won knowledge of how American institutions work it can become a powerful advocate and resource for New Mexico’s Native American population”.
The institute, founded in February, is designed to help native peoples “become architects of policy, the architects of laws where they are necessary, all toward improving the lives of Native American children and their communities”.
Its executive director, Cheryl Fairbanks, set forth the challenges facing the new organization. “New Mexico’s Native American children,” she said, “graduate high school at lower rates than other racial or ethnic groups and are at a greater risk for having no health insurance and for suicide. They are more likely to live in high-poverty areas than children from other populations, too.”  
The 11-member governing council includes eight Native Americans affiliated with the state’s seven tribes. “We gathered together people with expertise,” said Fairbanks, “...with indigenous knowledge to help us work on policies and funding.
“We haven’t always had a place at the table,” she said. “Now it’s our turn. We’re not the Indian problem, we’re the Indian solution.”
Lipsky, a distinguished senior fellow at the think tank Demos, worked in the Governance and Civil Society Unit at Ford from 1991 to 2003. While there he helped create the program Honoring Nations, which celebrates the achievements of Native American nations in promoting excellence in government through innovative programs.
Of the new institute, he said, “It’s important work, to make clear what the government is doing on behalf of Native Americans. It’s an experiment to see whether the resources can be focused enough so that we can make an impact, and we’re going to try.”  
Greg Farrell, founding president and CEO of EL Education, was honored at the organization’s 25th anniversary celebration in New York City on March 18 “for his life-long commitment to make schools more engaging, effective and joyous”.
The nonprofit organization initially was called Expeditionary Learning when it was formed by a group of educators from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound USA who had won the New American Schools national competition for a “break the mold” school design. 
Farrell led the organization until 2008, and remains on its Board of Directors.
The organization works with hundreds of schools in 35 states, reaching more than a million students and “helping them to succeed as engaged students and active students” through programs that emphasize “mastery of knowledge and skills, character and high-quality student work”.  
Farrell helped guide the creation of the organization with concepts he devised when he led an initiative to bring Outward Bound’s “educational and developmental insights, practices and programs to bear more on the problems of cities and schools”.
Those insights came out of his work from 1970 to 1990 as executive director of the Fund for the City of New York, a private foundation and public charity established by Ford to help improve the quality of life and government in New York City.   
Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and former director of creativity and free expression at Ford, received an honorary degree from Yale University at its commencement on May 21.
A poet, playwright, essayist and teacher, she helped design the Foundation’s Art for Justice Fund and developed programs for artists who engage with social justice and community-building.
She is author or co-author of 14 books, was chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2015 and serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board. President Barack Obama chose her to read an original poem, “Praise Song for the Day”, at his 2009 inauguration. 
Douglas Wood, senior fellow on justice and equity at the Aspen Institute and a former program officer at Ford for global grants, is the 2018 recipient of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education.   
He was selected for his “tireless work to ensure that low-income, first-generation college students receive high-quality post-secondary education, including his continued efforts in improving high school and college completion rates”.
In his career in education, beginning as a public school teacher, he has worked as executive director and chief education officer of the Tennessee State Board of Education; chair of the group that oversees Tennessee’s $3.2 billion K-12 budget; principal investigator of the National Academy for Excellent Teaching based at Columbia University, and dean of administration and planning at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School.
He has been working most recently on criminal justice reform, emphasizing high- quality educational opportunities and equity for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, in particular “women in prison and girls of color who are being criminalized in greater numbers in America’s schools”.    
Sally Kohn has published a book exploring “an epidemic of incivility and hate”, seeking to “discover why we hate and how we can inoculate ourselves”.
Research for The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity took Kohn to Africa and the Middle East and throughout this country, “introducing us to former terrorists, former white supremacists and even some of her own reformed Twitter trolls, drawing surprising lessons from some of the most dramatic examples of leaving hate behind”.  
Kohn, described by her publisher, Algonquin Books, as “one of the leading progessive voices in America”, was a program associate in the Governance and Civil Society Unit at Ford from 2002 to 2004. She is a senior campaign strategist for the Center for Community Change, a CNN political commentator and a columnist for The Daily Beast.



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