Fall 2020 Virtual Learning Session: Recordings, slides, and materials

October 28, 2020

Built for Zero’s fall Learning Session took place October 21-23, 2020, with over 750 virtual attendees, composed of members of 80+ BFZ communities (including five new communities), strategic partners, and BFZ staff! Over eight interactive sessions and three days, participants were inspired and encouraged to commit to building more racially equitable systems, while learning from federal partners, collaborators, and Built for Zero community leaders.


Session speakers, consultants, and facilitators included scholar and theologian Ruby Nell Sales; Regina Cannon, Chief Equity and Impact Officer of C4 Innovations; Donald Whitehead, President of the Board of Directors of National Coalition for the Homeless; Kavita Singh Gilchrist, Co-Founder of Racial Equity Partners; and co-directors and founders of the Persons with Lived Experience Institute, Dr. Bernice Rumala and Yolanda Roary, MA.

Throughout the Learning Session, participants explored the intersection of racism and homelessness, looked at new tools for partnership and collaboration with people with lived experience of homelessness, and learned how to understand and improve the experiences of Black and Indigenous people and other people of color who interact with the homelessness system. Communities also examined Built for Zero’s framework of key indicators for understanding the equity of their local homeless response system and how to respond to inequities found in system data.

Read a recap of the event here.

Click on session titles below for additional information and links to recordings, slides, and resources.


Session Presenters/Facilitators:
Jessica Venegas [BFZ], Leslie Wise  [BFZ], and Ruby Nell Sales

In the opening plenary session, we framed what it means to commit to racial equity, sharing past and ongoing ways Community Solutions and our partners have committed to this work. The session concluded with an inspiring keynote message from theologian and scholar Ruby Nell Sales, exploring  the historical perspective on the intersection of homelessness and racism.

Public Theologian, Historian, Activist, Social Critic, and Educator

Image of Ruby Nell Sales

Ruby Nell Sales looks at her work as a calling rather than a career. She answered the call to social justice as a teenager at Tuskegee Institute where she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked on voter registration in Lowndes County, Alabama. 

Sales received a B.A. degree from Manhattanville College and attended graduate school at Princeton University.  Sales received a Masters of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School where she was an Absalom Jones Scholar. While there, she developed a reputation as a preacher and has preached at churches and cathedrals around the nation. After divinity school, she founded and still directs a national nonprofit organization, the SpiritHouse Project.  

As a social justice activist, Sales’ work is cited in several books, journal articles and films such as Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68; Broken Ground: A Film on Race Relations in the South; Dan Rather’s American Dream Segment; and Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights by Rich and Sandra Neil Wallace. Sales was one of the founders of SAGE Magazine: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. As a social critic, Sales has published works in several journals, newspapers and magazines and is a frequent guest on Sirius XM Radio Inside the Issues with Dr. Wilmer Leon. Sales was keynote speaker at a gathering of nationally renown theologians to discuss “Public Theology Reimagined” hosted by and later broadcast on the NPR program, On Being with Krista Tippett. 

Sales has received numerous awards and honors. She was selected and honored as a Veteran of Hope by Vincent G. Harding in 2004 and taught a class with him at Morehouse College on “After the March on Washington” in 2012. She continues to write and observe on Movement History. Sales became a national HistoryMaker in 2009. In August 2013, Sales was awarded the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Living Legacies Civil Rights Recognition Award. In 2014, she was inducted into the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers and became a recipient of the Beautiful Are Their Feet Award from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. In May 2015, Sales received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Sales was honored with the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Award from the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) at their centennial celebration in November 2015. An oral history of Sales is housed at the Library of Congress, and she was selected as one of fifty African Americans from the Civil Rights Movement to be spotlighted in the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC which opened September 2016.  Sales was also one of the honorees of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) spotlighted at the opening of the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in April 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. In February 2019, TED.com released Sales’ TED Talk entitled, “How we can start to heal the pain of racial division.”

Sales has made the struggle for racial justice one of the centerpieces of her work through the SpiritHouse Project. Since 2007, she has worked to expose the state sanctioned deaths of African Americans by White police, security guards and vigilantes by compiling a national database on these events; offering spiritual, financial and organizational support to families; and by exposing these activities through church and community meetings, forums, and press conferences around the nation. In fall 2014, she co-sponsored a Teach In / Preach In with the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Eden Seminary and Christ the King Church in St. Louis, Missouri in response to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. During the spring of 2015, she organized a Teach-In in Philadelphia which exposed the Means and Tools of Oppression that plague most communities of color. In March 2016, Sales and SpiritHouse Project organized a national Day of Action in Washington, DC entitled, Stop the War on Our Children, during which women from around the nation gathered to acknowledge young victims of state sanctioned violence with a silent procession from the White House to the US Capitol, a public hearing hosted by Dr. Wilmer Leon, and the delivery of caskets containing the names of victims to key Senate, House and Supreme Court leadership.  

Recognizing a need to nurture the hope that still resides in young people as well as to revive an intergenerational community and human compassion, in 2016 the SpiritHouse Project introduced Hope Zones.™ They are alternative learning spaces designed to strengthen the hope, courage, reason and will of young people to individually and collectively stand up for themselves with dignity, clarity and nonviolent persistence. Hope Zones™ are sanctuary sites of learning, intergenerational connection and community formation which offer diverse communities an opportunity to work toward the common goal of advancing democracy and non-violence.

Sales continues to teach and preach at colleges, universities, churches and cathedrals around the United States. Funded by the Duke Endowment, she is currently creating Racial Justice Cafes in North and South Carolina. 

Session Presenters/Facilitators: 
Regina Cannon [C4SI], Donald Whitehead [National Coalition for the Homeless], and Candace Morgan [BFZ]

During this session, participants learned about the history of racism and the intersections between race and homelessness, while establishing shared definitions for ongoing racial equity work. Attendees worked to co-create the foundation for the collective conversation by establishing definitions, behavioral norms, and values, to be implemented in local contexts.

Session Presenters/Facilitators:  
Aras Jizan [BFZ]

In this session, participants learned about Built for Zero’s framework of key indicators for understanding the equity of a community’s homeless response system, exploring the elements of — and process to develop and implement — the Racial Equity Measurement Framework.

Session Presenters/Facilitators: 
Shantae Smith [BFZ],  Donald Whitehead, and Kavita Singh Gilchrist [Racial Equity Partners]

Participants learned how  to find inequities in their systems and to support local team members with mindsets and practices in responding to those inequities.

Session Presenters/Facilitators:
Ramina Davidson [BFZ], Amber Elliott [BFZ], Yolanda Roary, MA [PLE Institute], and Bernice B Rumala, PhD [PLE Institute]

Participants learned new tools for partnership and collaboration with people with lived experience of homelessness. The session explored why partnering with people with lived experience of homelessness is vital to the work of ending homelessness, also discussing best practices and common pitfalls in this work.

Session Presenters/Facilitators: 
Ramina Davidson [BFZ], Candace Morgan [BFZ], Regina Cannon [C4SI] , Yolanda Roary, MA [PLE Institute], and Bernice B Rumala, PhD [PLE Institute]

This session explored how to understand and improve the experiences of Black and Indigenous people and other people of color who interact with the homelessness system. In addition, this session looked at understanding the experience of BIPOC working in local systems.

Session Presenters/Facilitators:
Nate French [BFZ], Donald Whitehead [National Coalition for the Homeless], Kavita Singh Gilchrist [Racial Equity Partners], Anna Bialik  [BFZ]. and Tamara Wright [BFZ]

In this closing plenary session, the BFZ team shared important information about what to expect from Built for Zero in terms of future support around racial equity. A also panel discussed  how to focus on getting better results for Black and Indigineous people. 

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