One June 3rd organizers from MOSES Madison and Wisdom Wisconsin held a meet and greet at Wingra Park to welcome incoming organizer James Morgan. MOSES stands for Madison Organizing in Strength, Equity and Solidarity and is one of several faith-based organizations under the umbrella of Wisdom Wisconsin, working for transformative justice in Dane County and across the state. With an eye on the issues of mass incarceration and mass supervision, which negatively and disproportionately impact people of color, people with mental health issues, and people living in poverty, MOSES Madison use several tools to organize collective action.
Morgan, a previously incarcerated individual, has been a part of the organization since its inception, including his former work with Just Dane. Stepping into the organization as staff, he is uniquely positioned to be an ear and an advocate. David Liner, Executive Director of Wisdom, welcomes Morgan and sees him as being just what MOSES needs for the work ahead. “I am excited and have known James for a long time. He is a bright guy, who easily builds relationships with people.”
MOSES Vice-President, Saundra Brown, agrees and adds “He has a good ear for people’s concerns in the community, he spends time talking with those who are on the fringes of issues, people who are penalized for being who they are, people not recognized or who are voiceless. He gets to the core of issues for those folks and tries through his work to do something to help. He is not new to MOSES, and he knows what our issues are relating to mass incarceration, he is the perfect person for this role.”
Morgan himself is ready for the challenge but recognizes that he can’t do the work alone and hopes the community and its leaders, including faith-based leaders will join him in his work. “There is no place within society where we do not belong. I understand how difficult it is after being in the system, but I want to ask the people of Madison, especially those formerly incarcerated, to believe in themselves and let’s unite.”
“I’m here to listen and learn, not to listen and tell you what you must do. I can only assist to the degree that I am allowed because I must understand your right to pick and choose what you want to become involved in.” Morgan notes that many of the people who show up at MOSES events are white, which he is thankful for, but he hopes to see that work expand to the Black faith-based community, which historically has led the way for change. By working together, they can help state and local governments understand the diversity of their constituency and give voice to the voiceless.
“The power that they possess in language and pens are creating the realities that people must live with every day from generation to generation and politicians are bringing their own experiences rather than creating relationships with everybody, including the underserved people in our community. That’s going to be a challenge.” Morgan sees his role as bridging the gap between the people and the levers of power, to end incarceration as an answer to society’s problems and disrupting the pipeline to prison, which is a reality facing black and brown youth and adults.
“I want to deal with reality. We have some significant challenges to deal with. Some of the conversations are going to be very difficult. What I want people to understand is that my intentions and my being in this space isn’t to belittle anyone, to shame anyone, but to get us in a space where we can understand that it’s going to take two things. Being able to manage our emotional lives and being able to think strategically through the issues we face as a community.”
Morgan is up for the challenge and ready for the work that lies ahead.