Solidarity with George Wiley Center
Members of the George Wiley Center announce the formation of a new Board of Directors, reflective of the community.
Sign below to support our transformation to a member-led and democratic Board!
Please share this request for solidarity with your networks. Direct link to this sign-on statement can be found at:
George Wiley Center members and supporters, June 8, 2019
Entering the board meeting, taking seats at the table, demanding "Executive Committee RESIGN"
More info and documentation of this action in the article "Members of the George Wiley Center take over the Board":
(See below for statements from the new Board of Directors and the Executive Director)
Sign on in solidarity with the George Wiley Center!
I, the undersigned, am in solidarity with the transformation of the Board of Directors, and with the members, staff, volunteers, and continued mission of the George Wiley Center, organizing for social and economic justice in Rhode Island.
Please sign as an individual, as an organization (see below), or both. Thank you for your support at this pivotal time.
Organization / School / Congregation
Personal statement: Please share why you are in solidarity with the George Wiley Center and its Board transformation. (Please let us know if you prefer this statement remains anonymous.)
How have you been involved with the George Wiley Center or how did you hear about us?
How would you like to be involved in the George Wiley Center's work organizing for social and economic justice in Rhode Island?
Become a member
Provide rides so others can participate
Make phone calls
Attend organizing meetings
Schedule a presentation for your school, agency, church, or other community group
Keep me informed on policy proposals and other issues that affect our community
Any other thoughts or skills you would like to share?
Organizational Solidarity sign-on
Name of your organization / school / congregation / group signing on in support
Organizational Sign-on (Organization name)
Organizational Email Address
Organizational statement: Please share why your organization is in solidarity with the George Wiley Center and its Board transformation.
Please share this request for solidarity with your networks
Direct link to this sign-on statement can be found at:
Thank you for your support!!
Donate to support our work*
Your financial contributions help grow our grassroots organizing. As we transition to a member-led Board your donations are appreciated as a show of solidarity for this exciting development. Please consider one time or monthly donations to sustain and strengthen the George Wiley Center.
Checks may be mailed to George Wiley Center, 32 East Ave, Pawtucket, RI 02860
Or use the online donate link here:
*The George Wiley Center is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit for tax deduction purposes
Welcome new Board members!
The new Board of the George Wiley Center is Zainab Ilumoka (President), Servio Gomez (Co-President), Maria Gold (Treasurer), Alex Burnett (Secretary), Tony Ansah, Mayra Paulino, Bethany Melo, Tim Fischer, Maryellen Kurkulos, James Vita, Meghan Fernandes, Ellie Wyatt, Arlen Austin, Kai Bosworth, Susan Walker, Dean Sudarsky, Chris Murphy, and Ubaldo Quintero, Virginia Gonsalves, and Ben Evans
Read Board member bios here:
Contact the Board:
George Wiley Center Board of Directors, June 2019
Statement from the new Board of Directors
On June 8, 2019, members, volunteers, current and former staff and board members of the George Wiley Center acted to take back the Board of Directors on behalf of the community it serves.
The new Board of Directors is grateful to have the support of the George Wiley Center’s employees, members, and friends. Other individuals, together with grassroots and membership-based organizations—locally and nationally—have reached out to encourage us, and we invite you to do the same by signing this statement of solidarity, liking us on Facebook, retweeting us with #takebackyourorg, becoming a member, and donating.
Moving forward, we are renewing our commitment to grassroots organizing for social, economic, and racial justice. Our top priority in the coming months will be to change the foundation of the Board of Directors from an authoritarian model to a democratic one, and to hold organization-wide elections to give control back to the members. We are excited to strengthen our relationship with members as we build power collectively to fight injustice and support one another. We know how much we can accomplish together, and we welcome anyone interested in continuing the legacy of the George Wiley Center to join us.
The Board of Directors of the George Wiley Center
Statement from the Executive Director
I came to the George Wiley Center in 2012 as a longtime organizer. One of my driving principles has been encouraging groups toward democratic structures run by those most directly impacted. Almost 30 years ago I started organizing to challenge the root causes of injustice and because people like me, a first-generation graduate of public high school and public college, a child of working class immigrants, a queer organizer, are too often ignored and underrepresented, even in so-called social justice circles. For years I agitated internally for changes at the George Wiley Center to align the board of directors with our grassroots organizing mission. Ultimately it took working with members who confronted the crisis head on, using direct action to transform the board.
Power is rarely given without a struggle. Too many nonprofit boards are dominated by those who are seated based on money or insider connections, or who presume they know better than those most impacted by issues. Boards that are elected by a broader base of members are more in line with organizing groups. Boards are entrusted with critical oversight, while there is often little oversight of boards within a self-electing authoritarian model. It's a problem when board members are disconnected from on-the-ground campaigns and at the same time are making irresponsible decisions that impact the success of the organization.
While many wonderful board members have served the George Wiley Center over the years, in a system with little accountability board mis-leadership can steer an organization away from the vision. For almost two years I alerted the board to its own mismanagement, including issues of xenophobia, racism and classism, compounded by board leadership that repeatedly broke bylaws and common sense ethics. Unfortunately my concerns were usually ignored or dismissed, and I was often reprimanded. On May 3, 2019 I sent a formal letter to the board regarding recent serious actions by board leadership that were against the bylaws and threatened the future of our organization. My corrective suggestions were ignored.
I’m proud to say that during this difficult time the George Wiley Center has continued to be rooted in organizing efforts. Our organizing work that challenges the status quo is difficult enough. But we can’t change society if we don’t also transform our social justice organizations internally, demanding transparency and ethics in decision-making, dismantling the rampant racism and classism that short circuit our ability to fulfill our stated goals. One step toward undoing systems of oppression is shifting toward more representative and democratic decision-making structures. Power structures reinforce oppression when they silence and marginalize those who speak out. Organizing teaches us how effective it can be to come forward, seeking justice with the backing of our communities.
I'm so inspired by the courage and commitment of the new George Wiley Center Board of Directors that represents a wide array of Rhode Islanders impacted by social and economic injustices, including five board members who have been involved in our organizing work and who had been waiting for years to join the board. When a seat at the table is denied for so long, a seat at the table is no longer enough. It was time to take back the table and that’s what people did.
For those who may have doubts why the transformative board action was necessary, it was done to save and strengthen the George Wiley Center. If anyone has questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m willing to offer further insights as needed, while also not wanting to distract attention too far away from our other ongoing efforts. I hope that past and new supporters welcome the recent positive changes, so we can work together on this path to increasing grassroots power. Thank you for signing on and sharing our call for solidarity during this pivotal time (
). Please stay in touch.
Beyond the George Wiley Center, I hope others can use our organization’s story as an example of collective visioning and transformative justice. I'm excited about our next steps, the possibilities of liberation, the power of organizing!
Yours in the Struggle,
Coordinator/Executive Director, George Wiley Center
New board members and staff, taking back the table!
above photos by Susan O'Connell, bottom photo of group at the table by Steve Ahlquist
Contact the George Wiley Center
The George Wiley Center is a grassroots group organizing with low-income Rhode Islanders for systematic social and economic justice. It is named for Rhode Islander George Wiley who was active in the Civil and Welfare Rights movements.
Get in touch if you are facing utility shut-off or would like to be involved in organizing for utility justice and other areas of social and economic justice in Rhode Island.
George Wiley Center | 32 East Ave, Pawtucket RI 02860 | office: 401-728-5555 | email:
| on Facebook: "George Wiley Center"
-- organizing for social and economic justice --
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