Since its founding, MAPJ has continually evolved and grown in size and scope, initiating new projects, involving more community members, working with a larger budget and seeking more ambitious goals. We have initiated projects, many of which have grown large enough to operate somewhat independently. We have obtained a grant and established Speak United, an organization for empowerment of low/middle income citizens, and we established the Manhattan Coalition for Campaign Reform, which works through the Kansas Network. MAPJ organized the Flint Hills Coalition for a Living Wage. While much has changed over the years, the Manhattan alliance continues to seek practical ways to work for peace and justice through local community action.

Our Vision and Mission

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Vision – A community organizing culture in Manhattan

Mission – To build community capacity for winning issues that address material needs through building power and strategic action.

Our Identified Issues

  • Safe and Affordable Housing
  • Racial Justice in Policing
  • Living Wages


Co-Chair Jonalu Johnstone

Co-Chair Jessica Kerr

Treasurer Larry Weaver,

Secretary Cathy Bitikofer

Organizing Brandon Irwin

Membership Anne Cowan

Communications Jess Girdler

Community Organizers

We pay two part-time community organizers who are focused on housing and forming a renters’ union, Renters Together. Jonathan Cole and Rachel Shivers.

Our History

The Manhattan Alliance on Central America (MACA) was formed in 1984, with the purpose of educating ourselves and the community about issues specific to Central America. At times lobbying was done concerning foreign policy toward Central America. Members were encouraged to become politically active. The organization was rather informal, comprised of steering committee, a mailing list, and monthly rice-and-beans programs.

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Between 1984 and late 1990, MACA progressively broadened its agenda and programs to include issues beyond Central America.  By 1991, legislative emergencies specific to Central America were subsiding while integration of foreign and domestic problems (e.g., trade policies and peacetime economic conversion) increased. MACA decided to begin a process of reevaluating both our goals and our structure.  The following are some of the highlights of that process.

1988:  Began distribution of Tax Day flyers at the Post Office on April 15.  This was discontinued after many years when tax filing no longer created ‘an event’ at the post office.

Dec 90/Jan 91: Leadership of the organization was divided among a steering committee chair (S. Cox), a program chair (M.Howell), a Bulletin editor (J. Exdell) and a few other committees for handling other operations.

Spring 91: Workshops with Dr. Joel Edelstein (U.Colo) and Dr. John Swomley (long-time peace and justice activist) were held to discuss setting new goals.  Also MACA and the UU Fellowship began operating the Saturday Food Pantry at the Flint Hills Breadbasket.

1991: The Bulletin expanded to add news and opinion articles to its usual announcements of upcoming programs and activities. Presently MAPJ publishes an expanded newsletter five times a year.

Winter/Spring 92:  MACA worked toward incorporating under a new broader name and agenda and set new goals. A Feb 92 conference of all MACA supporters studied the options.

June 92: Five MACA members attended a strategic planning workshop conducted by the Peace Development Fund. MACA reorganization became more focused on goals and objectives.

October 92: All-day strategic planning workshop brought in new people and ideas. Specific plans were formulated to achieve new goals.

Jan 93: The Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice was incorporated. A search for new board members began.

Feb 93: The first board meetings of the new organization were held with an increased size board and newly elected officers. Chair-Anne Cowan, Treasurer-Jim Mitchell, Vice-Chair-Don Longbottom and Secy- John Pruner.

April 94: The first annual dinner meeting was held. New officers were elected. Joel Rogers, a founder of the New Party was the speaker. Chair-Anne Cowan, Treasurer-Jim Mitchell, Vice-Chair-Stan Cox, Secy-Barbara Baker.

Spring 94: Work began to form a second organization which would be 501(c)(3) tax deductible.

August 94: The Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice Education Fund was incorporated, as a parallel organization, which would be non-political and tax free. MAPJ became a Sister City with El Papaturro, El Salvador.  Joined US-El Salvador Sister Cities

Oct 94: Application was made to the IRS for the 501(c)(3) status.

Jan 95: A delegation of three visited our new sister city, El Papaturro, El Salvador.

March, 95: Granted IRS 501 (c)(3) status retroactive to August 1994.

Summer 96:  The Saturday Food Pantry closed by the Flint Hills Breadbasket due to their needing space we had occupied.  New space was not found.

Summer 1996: Low Income Women’s Project begun. Karen Maddox, first coordinator

Fall 1997:  MAPJ hired its first paid staff, a quarter-time administrative coordinator (Dan parcel), replaced by Adene Winter Feb, 98.

1997: MAPJ became an Affiliate of ACORN – Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

Now 97:  CHD grant began – Kay Glenn hired as full-time organizer of Speak United, formerly named Low Income Women’s Project.

May 98:  Flint Hills Coalition for Living Wage organized.  This project included 8 local unions plus other Manhattan organizations and individuals.  This coalition has its own budget with major support coming from the unions and MAPJ. MAPJ treasurer keeps the LW accounts and LW will use MAPJ Ed Fund Federal ID number.

July 98:  Mary Jo Murphy hired as quarter-time coordinator of living wage project.

April 99:  Speak United hired Mary Jo Murphy as full-time organizer.  CHD grants continued for SU.

2001: Speak United separates for MAPJ and becomes independent. MAPJ terminates its affiliate status with ACORN.

2001: MAPJ granted IRS 501 (c)(4) status.

In 2007 MAPJ sponsored a workshop to learn about the GI Rights Hotline. Since then, MAPJ has supported this project with finances and members taking part as lay-counselors. See

In 2015, the Manhattan/Riley County Coalition for Equal Justice was initiated to address racial profiling for marijuana arrests by the Riley County Police Department. This involves several churches and individuals with MAPJ being the organizer.

In 2016, we began review of our mission and vision, committing to the building of a community organizing culture in Manhattan.