Meet Cathy Phason, our new Housing Advocacy Intern
Cathryn Phason is a 48-year-old black female that was born and raised in Park Forest Illinois, the second oldest of six children. She lived in a world where she was taught not to share her personal business outside of the home, but she knows it’s time to stop generational curses and use her voice. She wanted to be a Psychiatrist growing up because her passion was to help others. Cathy achieved good grades throughout school, and her family knew she would graduate and go on to college. Cathy attended schooling in a predominantly white district where she began to see the effects of racism. Her mother was very diverse with friends, and tried to teach her kids everyone was equal although the world proves different. Cathy became pregnant in her senior year of high school, which changed the dynamics of her life. She had scholarships for school all over the country for basketball that she no longer could accept. Her family felt she let them down and turned their backs on her because they believed her son was her responsibility. Cathy resided in an area that her family didn’t approve of because of drugs, violence, and gangs. She witnessed so many tragedies and deaths throughout the years, that eventually she decided to make a change, and moved to Kalamazoo Michigan about 27 years ago to make a new start with her son. It was a difficult decision, but Cathy felt she was already alone. She eventually had three other sons and worked continuously to try and provide a stable life, but there were also difficult times. Cathy also tried numerous times returning back to school to further her education, but that would be a financial burden to the family. It was always in the best interest of her kids to continue to work and make ends meet. Cathy has also experienced homelessness in her life, which is why she is passionate to make sure everyone has the right to suitable and affordable housing. She worked in the medical field, sales, customer service, and transportation throughout her life. Cathy was involved in an accident which required surgery on her spine and changed her ability to perform work previously done. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years later. Cathy believed she was down for the count mentally and physically. It took a while for Cathy to realize and understand that God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers and prepares her for the platform He has provided. Cathy currently works with Michigan United as an organizer for the Overdose Crisis. She began volunteering with Michigan United over five years ago because the organization provides a platform for communities like hers to have a voice and make a difference. Cathy has worked on different campaigns, such as, Criminal Justice Reform and Caring Majority.
She also canvassed with Michigan United to help implement a housing ordinance through the Kalamazoo City Commissioners. Cathy has always seemed to be controversial for speaking and standing for justice and equality, but doesn’t mind being that voice. She hopes to continue to raise awareness of the injustice and inequalities minorities endure daily.
Meet Charlotte J. Ojediran-Whitfield, our new ISAAC Donor Relations Coordinator
My name is Charlotte J. Ojediran-Whitfield, I am a Kalamazoo, Michigan native with strong southern roots. I have two amazing children, one is in college and the other will be a junior in high school this fall. I am a WMU grad with a master’s degree in social work. My area of interest has been drug and alcohol therapy. However, for the last five years my professional skills have directed me in working with the senior population. I am currently employed at Kalamazoo County Area Agency on Aging, as Information & Assistance staff member.
During my previous employment I facilitated a winter hat, glove, and sock drive for seniors in St. Joseph County. Additionally, I have facilitated a food drive with all proceeds going to the Three Rivers, MI food bank. I have been instrumental in the academic success of several WMU Social Work students through their internship.
Outside of work I support my son in all of his school activities which are choir, school musicals, track and field and football. This is a full-time job in itself. During late spring through the fall I like to think of myself as a serious gardener. I start all if not most of my vegetables and flowers from seeds. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but I try. All other times and in between those times I sew. I am better known as Ms. Charlotte’s in that venue. I have been an artisan for many years sewing trendy aprons, African print inspired aprons, plus size aprons, and kitchen accessories. I usually participate in craft shows at least twice a year, if my schedule permits.
Three years ago, I stumbled into a meeting that has raised my cultural and community awareness, and issues for possible actions that I can take collectively. From that I am grateful to be a part of the ISAAC organization.
Meet our ISAAC Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Intern, Irving D. Quintero
Hello, my name’s Irving D. Quintero. I wanted to thank everyone for this great opportunity, I look forward to working with ISAAC and specifically the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. I have been an unofficial part of ISAAC for the past few years; attending meetings, some racial healing circles, and other events. The work done by ISAAC members is a great representation of the community that is continuously being built here in Kalamazoo and I’m glad to be part of it.
Kalamazoo has been my residency for the past 16 years or so. From Woods Lake, Maple St. Middle, to Loy Norrix HS and becoming a graduate of Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Arts, Education has played a big role in my life. From WMU I’ve been a part of the non-profit, El Concilio, one of the current partners of ISAAC. Before working with El Concilio and still a student at WMU I was part of organizations such as the Latino Student Alliance and of other service social organizations. It was during this time that I surely developed a preference of working towards helping and advocating for others.
Besides professional life I’m the oldest brother of four. I currently live with my partner and we are preparing for our first boy. My favorite animals are turtles, I enjoy listening to music, playing video games, as well as taking photos out in nature.