Welcome to our Social Justice Hall of Heroes: once a month we’ll be highlighting someone in the field fighting to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.
On Wednesday, October 10th, Grassroots Leadership and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary will be co-sponsoring a guest lecture by Gail Tyree, a Soros fellow and former organizer for Grassroots Leadership. In honor of her upcoming visit, Gail will be our first Social Justice Superhero.
As a 2011 Soros Justice Fellow, Gail is creating a network of organizations and individuals in the southeast U.S. who can respond quickly and effectively to stop for-profit prisons, jails, or detention centers from moving into their communities. Currently, she is a board member of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, and Tyree boasts over 30 years of Labor and Community organizing experience.
Her experience includes: international representative for the Workers United Labor Union; campaign director and organizer with Grassroots Leadership in Charlotte, North Carolina; board member of Workers Interfaith Network; advisory member of the Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network; campaign director for the Southern Faith Labor and Community Alliance in Memphis, Tennessee; project labor organizer with the Communications Workers of America; organizing instructor for the MidSouth Peace and Justice Center. She was also an AFL-CIO Teaching Fellow and a graduate of Southern Empowerment Project 2005 Advance Leadership Preparation Initiative. Most recently, Tyree was asked to help form the Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network and was elected to the board of the Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association.
At the most recent congress of the PCUSA, Tyree represented the Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network as a resource person to the Social Justice Committee. Gail was integral in passing the overture “On Instructing MRTI to Report to GAMC on the Corporate Practices of Publicly Traded Corporations That Operate For-Profit Prisons.” For Gail, this overture is an extension of the Presbyterian Church’s 2002 condemnation of for-profit prisons; she’s glad to see the denomination finally “putting its money where its mouth is” as it ensures against investment in companies that profit from imprisonment.
Despite her impressive CV as an activist, Tyree maintains that her work and her journey are more personal and spiritual than occupational. I had an opportunity to talk with Gail on the phone and over email. Click "Read More" to see my interview with Gail.