Project 55 Alumna Produces Acclaimed Documentary

By Natasha Robinson 04
PP55 Development Officer

At age 28 while in seminary, Katrina Browne ’89 received a booklet from her grandmother detailing the history of her forefathers, the DeWolf family. That booklet would send Browne on a nine-year journey to tell the story of her DeWolf ancestors’ role as the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history in a documentary called Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North.

Katrina joined the Project 55 family in 1990 as a member of Project 55’s inaugural fellowship class at The Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. Katrina’s PP55 Fellowship experience launched her into a career in public service, an interest that has continued to grow and strengthen with time.

After her Project 55 Fellowship, Browne co-founded Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that seeks to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation. The fact that Public Allies’ mission is closely aligned with that of Project 55 is no mistake. “What Project 55 had done for me was what Vanessa [Kirsch, co-founder of Public Allies] and I had in mind for an organization; assisting young people into becoming civic leaders who were experts on the needs of their community to make social change.

Katrina Browne '89 on location of her documentary on the slave trade.
Katrina Browne '89 on location of her documentary on the slave trade.

Katrina credits John Fish ’55 and Charlie Bray ’55, co-founders of Project 55, as instrumental in assisting her and Kirsch to start the program. Public Allies had its founding conference at Wingspread Conference Center housed at the Johnson Foundation, where Bray was on the board of directors. It was there that Browne and Kirsch met a charismatic community organizer from Chicago, Barack Obama, who suggested his wife, Michelle, become the Chicago Executive Director of Public Allies, a position she held from 1993-1996.

Public Allies currently operates in 15 U.S. cities across the nation and is led by CEO Paul Schmitz, who expanded the program to Milwaukee, Wisconsin soon after its founding. “The founding of Public Allies was an amazing ripple effect of Project 55 and an example of how Project 55 believes in young people,” Browne states.

Browne says that her experience in fundraising to start a nonprofit organization from the ground gave her the valuable skills she needed to produce her first film, Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North, which had its national broadcast premiere on June 24, 2008 on PBS’s documentary series P.O.V. Browne reflects, “This film epitomizes the course of my thinking after Project 55 and Public Allies. It is all about internal and external transformation. What are the attitudes that getin the way of social justice and social policy? what are the emotional blocks for Americans?”

The film follows Browne and nine other DeWolf descendants as they retrace the steps of the Triangle Trade, visiting the DeWolf hometown of Bristol, Rhode Island, slave forts on the coast of Ghana, and the ruins of a family plantation in Cuba. “There were so many moving parts—logistics, post-production, 10 family members, 3 countries, one of which America has embargoed. It was a lot to take on,” Browne reflects.

In the film, Browne pushes her family forward as they struggle through the minefield of race politics. With growing calls for reparations for slavery, Browne’s family struggles to make sense of their history and contribute to “repair.”

When asked how the film is relevant for today’s society, Browne states, “For white Americans, it’s not part of our legacy and everyday experience to think of race, which is one of the hallmarks of privilege. The legacy of slavery has so many permutations: homeownership rates among African Americans, rates of incarceration, lack of college education and the lack of healthcare. It’s important that a national conversation on race is brought out and discussed openly.”

The film has received critical acclaim from Stephen Holden of The New York Times, who wrote, “A far-reaching personal documentary examination of the slave trade…the implications of the film are devastating.”

Throughout the years, Princeton Project 55’s alumni volunteers, partner organizations, supervisors and mentors provide opportunities to expose fellows and each other to systemic issues and solutions and leadership development. Browne’s work on the film Traces of the Trade exemplifies Project 55’s goal to encourage fellows to remain civically engaged and bring about social change—whatever the medium.

To learn more about the film Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North, visit http://www.tracesofthetrade.org

Alumni Spotlight: Jana Rumminger

Former Fellow Fights for Human Rights in Asia

By Julie Saksa, PP55 Intern

“I currently live in Singapore and am now working with several organizations in South and Southeast Asia on issues of women’s rights, primarily on reform of Muslim family laws and the implementation of CEDAW (the UN “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women”) at the national level.” This is how former Fellow Jana Rumminger ’97 describes her work right now.

At Princeton, Jana Rumminger made a name for herself as an English major, focusing her independent work in African American and South African literature. During her junior year, Jana took advantage of an opportunity to spend a spring/summer term abroad at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. During this “turning point in my Princeton experience,” Jana began to re-orient herself toward public service and issues of justice.

Jana Rumminger '97, with a child from the Child Care Centre of the organization she worked with during her year as a Luce Scholar in Malaysia.
Jana Rumminger '97, with a child from the Child Care Centre of the organization she worked with during her year as a Luce Scholar in Malaysia.

Jana became a PP55 Fellow at Leake & Watts Services in Yonkers, NY. Other fellowships took her to a food bank in Texas and to policy-related work in Washington, D.C.

In 2004 Jana graduated from Northeastern University School of Law with a law degree and a master’s degree in Law, Policy and Society.

Looking back on her Princeton Project 55 fellowship at a Residential Treatment Center (Leake & Watts) for troubled and abused teenage foster kids, Jana is grateful for “the opportunity to merge the theory I had learned at Princeton with real-life experience.”

Jana’s fellowship experience led her to other fellowships and ultimately to a law school and the human rights work she currently does in Malaysia. Her advice for future or current PP55 fellows: “I would stress the importance of gaining experience at the grassroots level and in a variety of organizational settings. This will give you exposure and insight into the lived realities of people and the issues they grapple with, as well as insight into how organizations function.”

At a training on women's rights that Jana organized in Bangkok, Thailand, while working with International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (she is third from the left in the front row).
At a training on women's rights that Jana organized in Bangkok, Thailand, while working with International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (she is third from the left in the front row).

Jana Rumminger’s example provides an inspiring model of the impact and good that former fellows are doing in the world. The good news is, Jana is just one of many stellar Project 55 alumni who are using the skills and gifts they honed at Princeton, through fellowships, and in later graduate school work, to work for justice and human rights around the world.

Dr. Evangeline Franklin Visits Princeton

Dr. Evangeline Franklin ’76

“The City of New Orleans: In Disaster and Recovery.”

by Kim Hendler, Executive Director

Proudly wearing a black Princeton sweatshirt stained dramatically by the flooding to her home during Hurricane Katrina and her class of 1976 baseball cap, Dr. Evangeline Franklin ’76, MD, MPH, Director, Clinical Services & Employee Health and Emergency Preparedness Manager for the City of New Orleans, shared her harrowing experience as a victim of Katrina with students and alumni on Friday, February 22, 2008.

Dr. Franklin began by surveying the room to hear students’ hometowns and raised awareness about danger preparedness in each location, making the point that the entire country needs to be better prepared for major disasters. She told the room she hoped she would inspire in Princeton students an interest in disaster management and preparedness careers and volunteerism.

She then shared her personal experience during Katrina. Originally out of town for business, Franklin was called back to New Orleans by the director of the health department as Katrina approached the city. She spent several days after the storm in the Superdome, working with teams sent to the gulf region from around the country to provide healthcare to the storms victims. Eventually, with growing unrest among refugees housed in the Superdome, she and her colleagues had to escape to safer locations.

Franklin mixed personal anecdotes with general lessons in public health. She started by demonstrating that the areas of the city worst hit by Katrina were those where public health predictors (education, race, income level, and health) were already the lowest – exacerbating escape and rescue efforts.

Dr. Evangeline Franklin with a student at her lecture, "The City of New Orleans: In Disaster and Recovery."
Dr. Evangeline Franklin with a student at her lecture, "The City of New Orleans: In Disaster and Recovery."

Moving on to disaster response, she explained that while the rest of the country was growing impatient watching CNN, response teams from around the continent were gearing up to care for the sick and injured in New Orleans. The seeming delay in their arrival was necessary to ensure safety for workers and victims and adequate and appropriate coordination, information, and supplies. Franklin showed great admiration for the firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency response teams that supported her department’s efforts during the aftermath of Katrina.

Dr. Evangeline Franklin delivers a lecture on "The City of New Orleans: In Disaster and Recovery."
Dr. Evangeline Franklin delivers a lecture on "The City of New Orleans: In Disaster and Recovery."

One silver lining of the devastation of Katrina is improved and increased response coordination and emergency preparation in Louisiana and raised awareness across the country. At one point during her lecture, Dr. Franklin used members of the audience to demonstrate the number of key players who have to work together to handle such a disaster and the strict organization needed to maintain control and to manage limited resources.

Dr. Franklin bravely shared some of her personal story as well. She lost her home, her pets, and her parents’ home in Katrina. She works every day to help the city to recover from Katrina’s effects. As her colleague, Robert Gillio, said about Dr. Franklin, “She did the heroic. She stayed and continues to stay, everyday facing the human tragedy of the nations worst natural disaster and brings to the recovery a vision and drive to surpass recovery and create what was never there before.”

Spotlight on a Fellow: Logan West

By Logan West ’07, Current Fellow

Logan West ’07 graduated with a major in Geosciences and a minor in Italian. Originally from Little Rock, AR, he is a Project 55 Fellow working at Bethel New Life in Chicago.

Princeton Project 55 is often spoken of as a “year off”, but this really casts a false impression and needs clarification. PP55 is a year off in the sense that it is a year away from the constant grind of academia and away from a job where the norm is a 60 hour week. This is a year off from having your life decided for you. PP55 is not a year of stagnation; it is a year of opportunity.

PP55 provides an endless opportunity to learn. I learn at work what it is that makes a business (not-for-profits are just businesses where the profits go towards the clients) run effectively and what can make it operate inefficiently. I learn through conversations with coworkers, mentors, and other fellows, the wealth of knowledge they possess, the shared life experiences, and the issues they confront in work and at home. Above all, I learn from exposure; the exposure to the issues facing underserved communities, exposure to the innovative types of solutions, and exposure to people of all walks of life. My PP55 Fellowship has allowed me to gain new perspectives and a broader, more meaningful sense of the “real” world.

I am spending my fellowship year working at Bethel New Life in Chicago. Bethel is a model organization for asset-based community building and has been instrumental in redeveloping and revitalizing the Westside of Chicago—an area rich in history and character. As a fellow, the best aspect is the exposure. With over 300 employees, the organization is so diverse that there are few interests that are not covered by Bethel services.

Logan West '07 working with high school students on an urban planning & development program.
Logan West '07 working with high school students on an urban planning & development program.

One of my assignments for the year is to develop the policy stances for the organization through meeting with the various department directors. This is an opportunity to learn about the finance issues affecting our community savings and employment centers such as the current sub-prime mortgage crisis and the potential “green” market jobs as a source of employment. The task also requires being on top of issues affecting our senior services such as prescription drug policy. Finally, I also handle issues concerning real estate and land management including transit-oriented development and green buildings.

Beyond the variety of fields at Bethel, I have also been exposed to a host of other people, organizations, and issues facing the city as a whole. So far, I have been in meetings with the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, the superintendent of the Police department, and a variety of governmental and community leaders. Even more rewarding has been the opportunity to work with community residents, local high school students, and an extraordinary group of inspiring coworkers who work well beyond their pay grade because they want to see and make a difference in the community.

One of the signs in front of Bethel New Life in Chicago, where PP55 Fellow Logan West '07 spends his time.
One of the signs in front of Bethel New Life in Chicago, where PP55 Fellow Logan West '07 spends his time.

If this is not enough, Bethel is also flexible enough to allow for me to create my own projects such as starting an office recycling program as well as an oral history project amongst our senior residents living in our subsidized housing. While there are some aspects of Bethel that are inefficient and can be frustrating, the great thing is that they’re open to criticism and advice which they do respond to especially when you want to take action towards fixing the problem. Bethel is absolutely wonderful, and I will be sad to see the year end.

Remembering Duncan “Terry” Sutphen

By Melinda Hall, PP55 Intern

Duncan “Terry” Sutphen, a founding member of Project 55, passed away 1 February 2008. After his graduation from Princeton University, Mr. Sutphen worked as a ship’s engineer in the Navy, then for 31 years at Drusser Industries. Upon retirement, Mr. Sutphen applied himself to a new mission, resolving to “Use my experience and talent to work on projects with individuals and organizations to help family, friends, and others develop meaningful lives, while supporting community needs and Christian values.” To reach this goal, Mr. Sutphen worked with graduate students and others, teaching about finance, productivity, and manufacturing techniques.

Mr. Sutphen was deeply involved with Project 55. His work with the organization led him to not only run the office for several years and serve on the board, but also to work with the fellows. “The experience of working with the Princeton students and mentoring young people has been a unique and rewarding experience.”

Outside of his civic action and career, Mr. Sutphen was a fix-it Man, “I love projects that involve fixing things to make them useful again. Enjoyment comes from figuring out how things work…To my friends, I’m known as Mr. Fix-It, which gives me the joy of helping others, while practicing my mechanical skills.”

Terry SutphenTerry Sutphen, one of the original founders of Princeton Project 55 and deeply involved in the Princeton Community, passed away in early February 2008.

Even in his leisure time, Mr. Sutphen helped others. Mr. Sutphen will be missed not only by his family and friends, but also by those at Project 55 and all the others who knew of his diligence and service, and who benefited from his willingness to work in his community for its betterment.

Class of 1955 Reunites and Visits PP55 Fellows in Chicago

By Kim Hendler
Executive Director, Princeton Project 55
November 6, 2007

At a well-attended June 2007 Class of 1955 Chicago mini-reunion, 35 members of the Class of 1955 met with current Princeton Project 55 Public Interest Program fellows and toured a few of the organizations that are hosting Project 55 fellows this year. The group also met with Harrison Steans ’57, a long time supporter of Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, including providing funding to several organizations to host Project 55 fellows.

John Fish, Project 55’s Public Interest Program Founder and Leader, reflected to his classmates after the trip, “At our marvelous Chicago reunion, I am glad you all could get an ‘on the ground’ glimpse of the PP55 Public Interest Program, hearing from some of our outstanding current Fellows, Rebecca (Mt. Sinai Hospital), Erica (National Association of Charter School Authorizers) and Chioma (Access Community Health Network) as well as the inspiring comments from leaders of North Lawndale College Prep, Free Spirit Media, and North Lawndale Employment Network, all of whom have PP55 Fellows, and, not least of all, Harrison Steans ’57.

“If we had more time we could have had equally moving experiences at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Umoja Youth Development Corporation or the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. We could also have met with those who are taking the lead in making Chicago a “Green City,” The Delta Institute and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, all placements for our Fellows.

“In short, PP55 is enabling some of our most outstanding graduates to have an inspiring year in challenging and exciting placements in Chicago and in 6 other cities. I am pleased that you all were able to get a first hand look at what our class has accomplished and the legacy we are leaving.”