A few days after the 2016 election, Ben Motley emailed a number of his friends expressing concern for the wellbeing of the community that had grown
up around Arrow Coffee. Arrow serves a diverse group of people – including people of color, LGBT students, and many international students from the Middle East and China. It has always had a welcoming orientation, and part of the mission has always
been to build a community. Given the election results, Ben was worried that many of Arrow’s customers – the people he saw everyday – would be feeling fearful and disenfranchised.

He asked a few of us to help organise an event where the community could come together to discuss ways to confront hate and address material deprivation in Manhattan. Ben and Rachel Motley, Jon Herington, Brandon Kliewer, and Kerry Priest
helped plan the first event. Our goal was simply to start building a progressive community, have a conversation about unmet needs in Manhattan, and to give people some structure to organise their energy around. We had over 70 folks to the first
meeting, and a similar number attended the second meeting in January. We now have three “working groups” which are gathering data and investigating ways to address housing affordability, access to healthcare, and community inclusion in Manhattan and Riley County. Here’s what we have thus far:

1. Affordable & Safe Housing. Our community has some enormous problems with this issue, and there are many groups currently working to address them. We are working to put together a team to come alongside those already working and hopefully be a resource to them with energy, knowledge, and connections.
2. Community Inclusion. Many people identified concern for marginalized and underrepresented groups in our community, we want to build bridges between communities in Manhattan to better work together to accomplish our goals. This will also involve organizing within our group to connect with our local and state governments and hopefully finding people to fill needed public positions in our
city and county.
3. Mental Health and Well-being. A tremendous need exists in our community for (i) access to mental healthcare, (ii) greater food security, (iii) protection from sexual violence, and (iv) access to family service, including childcare. We are currently working to identify the needs, existing organisations, and resources that already exist in town. Our short term goals are to identify how we can support existing efforts in the community, and to identify which issues are falling through the gaps.

At our meeting on 23 January, we split into groups around these themes, had discussions around each topic, and began to formulate plans of action. Each group spent about 45 minutes talking through a strategy for organized action, and continued meetings.

“Most of the people who have attended meetings are driven and dedicated, but
feel as if they don’t know where to start. I think one of the most useful things
about Making Change is that it gives a structure for more experienced activists
to pass on their knowledge to newcomers.” – Jon Herington

Moving forward, we will likely continue to communicate through email for the purpose of large scale organization and progress updates, but each group will devise their own preferred method of communication. We will keep everyone who signs onto the email list informed about future collective action and how individuals can plug themselves into the various forms of communication we will be using:
Those who participated (or wish to stay connected) in Jon’s group focused on mental health and well being, he will be doing direct email correspondence with updates. If you would like to get on that list, you can email him at <jherington@gmail.com>.

Those of you interested in keeping up with our community inclusion group, Ben Motley will be up dating a newly created Facebook group called Making Change MHK. Please feel free to join and stay tuned for updates.

And those who would like to contribute to our efforts to address the affordable housing crisis in Manhattan, Brandon Irwin will be our point person. Interested individuals can contact him at: <birwin8@gmail.com>. He will send out info on how to stay involved. His group is currently in the process of building a coalition including a number of key stakeholders in the community (City Commission, MESI, MAHP, Habitat for Humanity, Building and Planning officials, Department of Public Health, Housing Authority, K-State, etc.). Part of this project has involved exploring ‘tiny houses’ as one solution to the problem, working very closely with the city building officials and the Mayor.

Originally published in the MAPJ NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY/MARCH 2017 pp. 4-5.

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