Views from the (Home) Office

Crystal Lewis:

1. What is your role at the ERC?

I’m the Director of Finance & Administration. I oversee the organization’s financial and administrative functions.

2. Tell us about a news story from this week that resonated with you.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the front page of Sunday’s New York Times, which lists the names and a short tidbit about the thousands of people who have lost their lives to COVID. It truly drove home the degree of loss we’re all experiencing together.

3. Tell us about a favorite project you’ve worked on at the ERC.

I’m newer to the organization, so my experience with the ERC’s projects is pretty limited. However, I will share that I’m currently overseeing our yearly fiscal audit and couldn’t be more impressed with the professionalism and teamwork that are on display by the staff involved in this effort. Audits are difficult enough when ordinary operations are possible, and the COVID crisis has made it more stressful than usual. However, I’ve watched everyone at the ERC really rise to the occasion.

4. What have you been watching/reading/listening to?

I listen to music more often than I watch TV. My favorite musical genres are old school R&B and urban gospel. When I do stream TV shows, I usually choose classic sitcoms. Last weekend, I restarted The Golden Girls at Season 1, Episode 1 and (as always) it did not disappoint. I literally watched it for hours before realizing how much time I’d spent. It was a great way to unwind over the long holiday weekend.

5. Show us a glimpse into your quar-routine.

Crystal Lewis in her home office.

Here I am in my home office!

 

Elias Cohn:

1. What is your role at the ERC?

I manage our Strategic Initiatives program which largely involves investigations outside the areas of housing and accessibility. Most of my projects involve employment discrimination or language access — testing whether people who do not speak English have access to important services. For example, our new report about language barriers to COVID-19 testing information.

2. Tell us about a news story from this week that resonated with you.

Why meatpacking plants have become coronavirus hot spots – This hit me on a personal level because for the last year, through my projects in Chicago, I have gotten to know workers at facilities like the ones mentioned in the article, and learned a lot about the problems they face even in ordinary times, including discrimination, wage theft, and dangerous working conditions. It also highlighted a population that one rarely hears about in the media — the people who make it possible for consumer goods to appear on the shelves of our local grocery stores. The federal government recently declared these processing plants “critical infrastructure,” mandating that they remain open. But the stories we hear coming from workers at these facilities, especially now, make it pretty clear that while we consider the work essential a lot of the workers are treated as expendable.

3. Tell us about a favorite project you’ve worked on at the ERC.

For the last year I have been working on employment testing projects in the greater Chicago area. Specifically, we have been testing for discrimination at staffing agencies (also called “temp agencies”), which provide a large portion of the labor to light industrial factories and warehouses around the region. I have met and gotten to work with some great people, learned a ton about a really important and underappreciated industry, and got to know the city of Chicago in a unique way. And eaten a lot of amazing tacos.

4. What have you been watching/reading/listening to?

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts including RevealThe DailyHit Parade, and Pod Save America. Also Brittany Howards’ most recent album, which is brilliant, and just finished watching the Hip Hop Evolution documentary on Netflix. When I’m not reading test reports I am trying to finish East of Eden.

5. Show us a glimpse into your quar-routine.

Eli wears a protective mask decorated to look like a polar bear in his home office.

It usually involves a quick breakfast, some guitar study breaks when I’m not working, long bike rides after work, and listening to a podcast while I cook something for dinner. Here I am in my little home office with my homemade polar bear N-95 mask.

 

Nick Adjami:

1. What is your role at the ERC?

As my title suggests I communicate with our membership and conduct outreach in the local community. I facilitate “know your rights” trainings, write blog posts, manage our social media, and send this newsletter every week!

2. Tell us about a news story from this week that resonated with you.

‘A Community Of Desperation’ Finding Sympathy And Solidarity In Dorothea Lange – I came across this article and was comforted by Lange’s photographs and the work being done to preserve and share them. The photographs themselves aren’t joyful, per se, but I appreciate the narrative of resilience that can be built around them, especially in relation to our current crisis.

3. Tell us about a favorite project you’ve worked on at the ERC.

I love writing and am thankful my job lets me do so much of it. Working on this blog post was definitely a highlight because I learned a lot about a new-to-me topic and could reflect on DC-specific inequities as they relate to national patterns and policies.

4. What have you been watching/reading/listening to?

I’m loving the singles that have been released from the new Perfume Genius album and can’t wait for the whole thing to drop tomorrow (on my birthday)! What a great present!

5. Show us a glimpse into your quar-routine.

Three hawk chicks in a nest.

On my walks I like to say hi to these baby hawks. The photo I took was much blurrier so here’s a better one from the internet. The dad hawk made headlines last week but I haven’t met him or the mom yet.

 

Brian McKenzie:

1. What is your role at the ERC?

I am the Senior Training and Compliance Program Manager at the ERC. I’ve been with the organization for four years.

2. Tell us about a news story from this week that resonated with you.

Pittsburgh City Council looking to end housing discrimination based on perceived immigration status – I’m proud that my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA recently announced an ordinance to expand their fair housing protections to include perceived/actual immigration status and language in response to discrimination related to COVID-19.

3. Tell us about a favorite project you’ve worked on at the ERC.

One project in particular that I look back fondly on was creating an online learning course on Washington, D.C. fair housing laws. I got to learn about recording and editing audio which was all something completely new to me and completely out of my comfort zone.

4. What have you been watching/reading/listening to?

Watching: The Plot Against America and What We Do in the Shadows. Reading: His Dark Materials. Listening: New albums by The Strokes and Pearl Jam.

5. Show us a glimpse into your quar-routine.

Multiple computer screens on a long desk, with shelves overhead holding books and Pittsburgh Penguins merchandise.

You can probably tell that my wife and I love Pittsburgh sports and can’t wait to be able to watch the Penguins again.

 

Susie McClannahan:

1. What is your role at the ERC?

I manage our fair housing program and I work directly with individuals who are experiencing housing discrimination.

2. Tell us about a news story from this week that resonated with you.

How to help people during the pandemic, one Google spreadsheet at a time – With the difficulty of the last few weeks as we adjust to this new reality, I have found a lot of hope and joy in seeing the ways that communities in DC and elsewhere are showing up for each other through the creation of mutual aid networks. DC’s mutual aid network is a volunteer-run effort working to ensure everyone in the city has access to what they need so that we can make it through this crisis together.

3. Tell us about a favorite project you’ve worked on at the ERC.

I am really glad to have the opportunity to work directly with individuals in our community. I am continually amazed at the courage and tenacity of the individuals who contact us to report housing discrimination. While some cases can be resolved in a matter of weeks, it sometimes can take months or even years to fully resolve a case. I am extremely grateful for the trust our clients show us to continue fighting for their fair housing rights.

4. What have you been watching/reading/listening to?

What We Do in the Shadows – Watching vampires fail at navigating group living and interpersonal relationships is the light hearted comedy I need right now.

5. Show us a glimpse into your quar-routine.

Susie wears a protective face mask made of fabric with images of donuts on it.

I have surprisingly found that making masks has been a great way to direct my energy and time to doing something tangible. As a rule, all masks must be have a fun print.

 

Sian Leach:

What is your role at the ERC?

I am the External Affairs Manager. I handle communications and fundraising across the organization.

Tell us about a news story from this week that resonated with you.

How Millions of Women Became Essential Workers in America: This article really struck a chord about how we view and value certain types of labor in this country, and the gender and racial disparities that have been highlighted by COVID-19.

Tell us about a favorite project you’ve worked on at the ERC.

I get to be part of so many projects at the ERC because my job is to help tell the story of the work our staff is doing. Being able to craft narratives about the work of the ERC helps bring more people into the work being done to eliminate discrimination.

What have you been watching/reading/listening to?

I’ve been enjoying The Indicator by Planet Money. When the news is too much, I’ve been having dance parties in my kitchen listening to Robyn.

Show us a glimpse into your quar-routine.

A cat stands next to Sian's laptop looking at the screen.

My “coworker” Jayne seems happy to have the humans home all the time but doesn’t understand what is so special about this computer screen or why I’m always staring at it.

 

Kate Scott:

What is your role at the ERC?

Newly appointed Executive Director and all around professional troubleshooter. I’ve been working on how to reconcile this with my newfound life role as a full time Kindergarten teacher.

Tell us about a news story from this week that resonated with you.

These two stories from New Orleans have been on my mind all week:

  1. High-Risk, Essential, and Illegally Evicted: Highlights how meaningless eviction bans are unless someone is willing to enforce them, but has a happy ending due to the great work of many of my friends and former colleagues.
  2. ‘Wearing a mask won’t protect us from our history.’: Devastating account from longtime resident and owner of the only fresh grocery in one New Orleans neighborhood.

Tell us about a favorite project you’ve worked on at the ERC.

I really love to identify and recruit talented people to join the ERC team, then invest in their professional development over the long term in order to enhance our impact. I am so excited about working with our team right now to ensure that civil rights is a part of how we collectively respond to this crisis!

What have you been watching/reading/listening to?

Last weekend I watched Unorthodox and was really moved by it. It made me curious about Orthodox communities which led me to go down a lot of internet rabbit holes—curiosity is such a welcomed sensation right now! This weekend, I’m looking forward to watching Crip Camp. I’ve also realized that I needed to back off of my obsessive news podcast listening tendencies and so reactivated my Audible subscription. This week, I started listening to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It has proven to be a real balm in this moment.

Show us a glimpse into your quar-routine.

In order to help my son make sense of what’s going on (and also practice writing!), we’ve been trying to engage in a daily practice of writing something we are grateful for. He can’t seem to wrap his mind around that task without first stating what he’s sad/angry/frustrated about—which I totally relate to! These are our entries for today.

A whiteboard which reads, in a child's handwriting, "I am mad that trump says this is not a big problem. I am grateful that I still get to go to camp." Below, in an adult's handwriting: "I am frustrated that there isn't a plan! I am grateful that so many people are doing their best."

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