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Arise for Social Justice records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00458

Scope and Contents

The Arise for Social Justice Records consist of 30.25 linear feet of materials dating from 1956 to 2010. Types of materials include brochures, conference files, correspondence, financial records, flyers, grant proposals and reports, minutes and agendas, speeches, organizations files, photographs, press releases, newsletters and other publications, reports, newspaper clippings, notes, surveys, training materials, subject files, and memorabilia. The bulk of the records date from 1985 to 2000. They provide a remarkably detailed record of the activities, decision-making processes, and political foundation of the organization and its work in coalition with regional, state, national, and international groups. In addition to materials documenting the work of Arise, the records contain a wealth of mailings, newsletters, and other resources produced by wide variety of organizations working for social and economic justice in late twentieth century America. Because Arise also served as an information clearinghouse, the records are rich with resource lists and reference files on a wide variety of subjects compiled to provide background information and serve as source materials for future activities. Major topics found in the records include criminal justice, economic justice, HIV/AIDS prevention, homelessness, housing, poverty, social justice, and welfare rights.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1916 - 2018


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use with following restrictions on access: Due to privacy concerns, researchers must sign an access agreement prior to use of the following items: files containing information about Arise's financial donors; case files for individuals helped through Arise's Citizen Advocacy program; records on individuals who worked with Arise as part of their Community Service; and intake and referral forms for food, clothes, and shelter (these records are filed in separate boxes at end of collection). Please consult with special collections staff at to begin this process.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to unpublished works created by Arise for Social Justice members and employees as part of their participation in the group. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Arise for Social Justice members and employees as part of their participation in the organization may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Arise for Social Justice is a Springfield, Massachusetts-based low-income rights organization founded by a small group of women on public assistance in 1985. It is an organization led by low-income members who believe that "we as poor people have a right to speak for ourselves, and that as we do, we learn how to build political power for ourselves." Its many and varied programs and alliances seek to educate, organize, unite, and empower low-income people to know their rights and stand up for them; to promote involvement in the political process; to promote self-esteem; to educate the community at large to its common interest in social and economic justice; and to educate low-income people to fight oppression in all its manifestations.

The founding members of Arise, Michaelann Bewsee, Cindy Montoya, Hollee Patterson, Karen Rock, Pam Scott, and Terrill Winston, were initially brought together through the Boston-based group Coalition for Basic Human Needs. Montoya and Rock, who lived in Northampton, Massachusetts, soon formed a separate group in that city. The remaining Springfield women were later joined by Terrill's sister Marsha Burnett and Darlene Nellis among others.

Though the members initially conceived of the group as a welfare rights organization "because all of us were recipients," they "soon realized that all people who live below the poverty line are suffering from discrimination, violation of rights, and threats to their survival and that the working poor and recipients were being played off against each other instead of coming together for your common survival." 1 "By the time we wrote our by-laws we had become a low-income rights organization." 2 In the mid-1990s, Arise added a significant element of "anti-oppression work" to its mission.

Initial efforts focused on injustices in the welfare system. Issues listed on the agenda for Arise's first outreach meeting in March 1985 include child support, the "Up to Poverty" campaign and "Other Issues" (including federal budget cuts, sensitivity, information network, employment training and work incentives, child care, and Pell grants). By the second meeting, the members added the issue of Medicaid access.

Arise incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1986. It hired its first director, opened its first office, and became a delegate agency of the Springfield Action Commission, a local anti-poverty agency in 1987. A six- to ten-member Board of Directors oversaw business affairs and property. Committees provided the "strategic thinking" for the organization. The small paid staff worked primarily on financial development, training, and volunteer coordination. Grants sometimes allowed for hiring staff to work on special projects.

Arise has created its own programs and worked on many projects and campaigns in coalition with other groups on a regional, state, and national level. The organization's interests and activities, while varied, are strongly interconnected, with social and economic justice at their core. In most instances Arise has combined work for specific goals, or to provide services which would directly impact its members and the residents of Springfield, while also working to change underlying systems.

At its founding, Arise joined the "Up to Poverty" Campaign, a statewide, grassroots effort led by welfare recipients to create a minimum welfare payment level for families and individuals who relied on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or General Relief (GR) for all or part of their income. The concept was to bring the amount of the grant up to the federal poverty level.

The coalition of over ninety Massachusetts organizations working on the campaign took as its motto, "A right to thrive, not barely survive." They scored an early success when two of the organizations, the Coalition for Basic Human Needs and the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, filed a lawsuit in 1985 that claimed that the low level of grants violated state law. The presiding judge agreed, and in September of 1986, the state issued a report establishing a guaranteed minimum grant. Though the group felt this minimum was still inadequate, this early victory helped launch Arise. By 1988 the Massachusetts coalition had joined with the national "Up and Out of Poverty Now" Campaign.

In 1986 Arise formed support groups called Justice for Parents and Children Under Protective Services and Children and Parent's Advocacy (CAPA) to publicize the difficulties parents confronted in dealing with the Department of Social Services (DSS). They outlined their needs for better information; improved communication; clear protocols, definitions, and policies; translators; and cultural sensitivity. The groups held demonstrations, vigils, and letter-writing and media campaigns. They worked on child custody issues, foster care and adoption issues, false accusations of child abuse, and advocated for the reorganization of DSS and an examination of its practices both in specific cases and in general.

Arise members trained as Citizen Advocates to assist individuals in navigating the legal system, health care infrastructure, and a variety of city, state, and federal offices and departments, such as Veterans Affairs, Public Welfare, Housing Authority, Social Services, and Prisons. The training emphasized knowledge of clients' rights and effective advocacy techniques. Advocates aided clients with welfare system issues, such as food stamps, Medicaid cards, and fair hearings. They also helped with housing issues, evictions and problems with landlords; and other matters, such as divorce, separation, restraining orders, and child support payments; social security; and disability. Arise-trained Citizen Advocates helped Springfield residents to write letters, fill out forms, and would accompany them on visits to various offices.

Arise also helped individuals through referrals to social service and aid agencies such as the Salvation Army, Open Pantry, Love Center, and Gray House for food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities.

Members organized a Speakers Bureau and sought opportunities to share their firsthand knowledge of living in poverty at conferences and meetings, and give testimony at legislative hearings.

Arise also facilitated support groups and workshops for parenting, empowerment, health, stress reduction, and skills building through its Self-Reliance Center (1992-), Homeless Action Center (1987-), and Myles Horton Free School (circa 1994-).

By the late 1980s Arise was also working on homelessness. Arise members served on various city committees and in coalitions working to provide more shelter beds; shelter for different populations (families, battered women); as well as a variety of services, benefits, and facilities to help the homeless find and keep permanent housing.

Arise members served on committees working to develop a Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) for Springfield in the early 1990s. The organization constantly explored a wide variety of alternatives, such as community land trusts, limited equity cooperatives, and AIDS housing. It also worked with public housing tenants to form tenant organizations through the Massachusetts Tenants Organization (MTO) and Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, and served as resources for tenants' rights. The organization advocated for a rent control initiative in Springfield in 1988-89, and to prevent the loss of "at-risk" (or expiring use) subsidized housing.

Beginning in 1992 Arise participated in a collective of non-profit organizations working to rehabilitate the Rainville Hotel at 32 Byers St. in Springfield, as a single-room occupancy (SRO) residence for single, low-income men and women. The collective consisted of Arise, Open Pantry, the Springfield Action Commission, Gandara Mental Health Center, the Housing Allowance Project, the South Middlesex Non-Profit Housing Corp., and the Community Builders. Arise later managed the building which not only provided housing, but a range of social services emphasizing self-help and mutual support. As part of this effort, Arise also established its Self-Reliance Center/Program to be a community-based economic development and homelessness support center for homeless, formerly homeless, and those at-risk of becoming homeless. The program fostered peer support, the development of organizational and leadership skills, and featured a skills exchange.

By 1993 Arise had also established a Hot Meals program for homeless families placed in motels, organized against one of Springfield's most negligent landlords, and registered more than 2,000 new voters.

Arise's involvement with the criminal justice system began when the organization agreed to employ individuals sentenced to do community service work in 1988. The membership has worked on issues related to police brutality, community policing, citizen review of police, criminal offender record information (CORI) regulations, prison conditions, mandatory minimum sentences, political prisoners, youth violence, and the death penalty.

Though access to health care is one of Arise's continuing long-term interests, the group participated especially vigorously in two events in the 1990s--debates related to President Clinton's proposed health care reform plan in 1993-94, and a Massachusetts public policy ballot referendum to establish a single-payer health care system in the state in 1994.

Other campaigns sought to increase the participation of low-income citizens on city-wide boards, and in the political process, especially through a campaign to replace the all at-large seats on City Council with a system including some ward representatives. Arise worked to defeat the Citizens for Limited Taxation ballot initiative in 1990 and participated in an especially extensive effort for voter registration and mobilization in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Beginning with the People's Quincentenary Celebration in 1992, Arise launched international Solidarity efforts including sending a delegation to Nicaragua in the fall 1996. They established close ties with the New England Central America Network (NECAN) to work on labor rights, environmental degradation, anti-imperialism and militarism, anti-apartheid advocacy.

In the late 1990s Arise joined the Economic Human Rights Campaign of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union of Philadelphia. The Campaign works "to unite the poor across color lines as the leadership base for a broad movement to abolish poverty," taking as its basis "economic human rights as named in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as the rights to food, housing, health, education, communication and a living wage job." 3

Arise began work on HIV/AIDS prevention, awareness, and care in the early 1990s. By 1997 they had developed a program, written a grant, and received funding from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Bureau to establish and run an HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention Program. As with other Arise activities, the Program aimed to provide direct services (such as needle exchange, condom distribution, and health care information) and education aimed at prevention, while also working on larger societal issues. The Program funded establishment of a Sex Worker Outreach Team (SWOT) to promote self-protection among women engaged in, or at risk for being pushed to engage in, sex work in Springfield. SWOT aimed to "develop and share with Arise membership and the wider community a political-economic analysis of sex work and strategies for changing the social and economic conditions which push women into street sex work." The program, under the clinical supervision of Nancy Lyman-Shaver, included monthly individual sessions and group sessions.

In its second year, the group changed its name to Women in Support of Each Other (WISE) "to make ourselves more accessible sounding to women that do not identify with the title sex worker." The group distributed condoms, bleach and water kits, and educational materials. Its long-range goals included improved working conditions for club workers and decriminalization of prostitution, teaching self-advocacy skills, and providing space and resources to help break down barriers between women.

Arise worked with the Springfield Harm Reduction Coalition (ShaRC), the Springfield Users Council and the Springfield Alliance for Needle Exchange (SANE) to attempt implementation of a legal needle exchange program in city of Springfield.

In 2010 Arise listed its key issues and campaigns as economic justice (to make sure people on public assistance get their rights), "digital divide" computer education, free school education to empower individuals, and peace with solidarity and anti-violence work to educate the community about the waging of wars abroad.

As of 2011, Arise and its co-founder Michaelann Bewsee maintain blogs at the following URLs:

Notes 1. Grant proposal to the Haymarket Peoples Fund, 30 Dec 1985. 2. From "Excerpts from the Common Grant Application," circa 1996. 3. Mission statement of the Poor Peoples' Economic Human Rights Campaign.


41.46 linear feet (43 containers)

0.35 Gigabytes

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian


Grassroots advocacy, low-income rights and social justice organization based in Springfield, Mass. The Records provide a detailed record of the activities, decision-making processes, and political foundation of the organization and its work in coalition with regional, state, national, and international groups. Major topics found in the records include criminal justice, economic justice, HIV/AIDS prevention, homelessness, housing, poverty, social justice, and welfare rights. In addition there are resources produced by many other organizations working for social and economic justice.


This collection is organized into twenty-five series:

  15. XV. PEACE


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Arise for Social Justice, 2002-2023.

Related Materials

See also: oral history with Arise co-founder Michaelann Bewsee is included in the SSC's Voices of Feminism Oral History Project and the Survivors, Inc. Records. Materials on Gray Panthers of Hampden County were transferred to Special Collections and Archives at the University of Massachusetts--Amherst.

APPENDIX: Acronyms in the Arise Records

  1. AHA Affordable Housing Alliance
  2. ARMS Advocacy for Resources for Modern Survival
  3. CABHN Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs
  4. CAP Community Action Program
  5. CAPA Children and Parents' Advocates (Arise group)
  6. CAPA Coalition Against Police Abuse (Los Angeles group)
  7. CAVDP Coalition Against Violence and the Death Penalty
  8. CBHN Coalition for Basic Human Needs
  9. CSBG Community Services Block Grant (Massachusetts)
  10. CECP Citizens for Effective Community Policing (Springfield)
  11. CHAPA Citizens' Housing and Planning Association, Inc.
  12. CHAS Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy
  13. CHisPA Center for Hispanic Policy and Advocacy
  14. CLPHA Council of Large Public Housing Authorities
  15. CMAR Contract Monitoring and Assessment Reports, MA Dept of Public Health
  16. CONAMUP La Coordinadora Nacional del Movimiento Urbano Popular (National Coordinating Committee of the Urban Popular Movement)
  17. CORI Criminal Offender Record Information
  18. CPPAX Citizens for Participation in Political Action
  19. CDBG Community Development Block Grant
  20. CDC Community Development Corporation
  21. CSBG Community Services Block Grant
  22. CSC Commonwealth Service Corps
  23. EOCD Executive Office of Communities and Development
  24. ETS Empty the Shelters, student arm of Kensington Welfare Rights Union
  25. FCCDC Franklin County Community Development Corporation
  26. FEVR Fund for Equal Voting Rights
  27. FORWARD Fighting Oppression Racism Wrongness Advocating Rights Dignity
  28. FRAC Food Research and Action Center
  29. HAC [Arise] Homeless Action Center
  30. HAP Housing Alliance Project, Hamden Hampshire Housing Partnership
  31. HELP Homeless Employment Leadership Project [Arise-Homeless]
  32. HERA Hotline to End Rape and Abuse [Arise]
  33. HOME Coalition Housing Opportunities in Mass. for Everyone
  34. HOUSE Homeless Openly United to Shelter Everyone
  35. ICE Institute for Community Economics
  36. M/A Medicaid Access
  37. MA DPH Massachusetts Department of Public Health
  38. MAHA Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance
  39. MAHC Massachusetts Anti-Hunger Coalition
  40. MCADP Mass. Citizens Against the Death Penalty
  41. MHFA Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency
  42. MLAC Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
  43. MSPA Mass. Shelter Providers Association
  44. MTO Massachusetts Tenants Organization
  45. NASNA North American Street Newspaper Association
  46. NECAN New England Central America Network
  47. Nellie Mae New England Education Loan Marketing Assn
  48. NEX Needle Exchange
  49. N-COPA National Coalition for Police Accountability
  50. NICA New England Central America Network
  51. PACE Political Action for Community Empowerment
  52. SAC Springfield Action Commission
  53. SACAP Springfield Area Central America Project
  54. SANE Springfield Alliance for Needle Exchange
  55. SCPPA Springfield Community Partnership and Prevention Alliance
  56. SHA Springfield Housing Authority
  57. SHaRC Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition
  58. SHARE Self-Help and Resource Exchange (also Students Helping Area Reach-Out Efforts; Springfield's Hunger in America Relief Effort)
  59. SPIN Service Providers Information Network (comprehensive AIDS/HIV info resource, Boston)
  60. SPIN Single Parent Interactive Network [in children & youth]
  61. SPUN Springfield Project for a United Neighborhood
  62. SRC/SRP Self-Reliance Center/Self-Reliance Project
  63. SSI Supplemental Security Income
  64. SUC Springfield Users Council
  65. SWOT Sex-Worker Outreach Team
  66. TAFDC Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children
  67. TANF Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  68. TEAM Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts
  69. TEOI Tenant Electoral Organizing Initiative [related to MTO's Rent Control Task Force]
  70. UfSEJP Unite for Social [& Economic?] Justice Project
  71. UHCAN Universal Health Care Action Network
  72. UROC Undoing Racism Organizing Committee
  73. WCSJ Women's Campaign for Social Justice
  74. WETAC Welfare, Education, Training Access Coalition
  75. Western MassCOSH Western Mass. Coalition for Occupational Health & Safety
  76. WIC Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children
  77. WISE Women in Support of Each Other
  78. WMLA Western Massachusetts Labor Action

Processing Information

Processed by Maida Goodwin, Alyssa Pluss, and Lori Satter, 2012.

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. The following changes were made in this collection: Accession 2015-S-0056, Boxes 1-2 renumbered as Boxes 33-34

Arise for Social Justice records
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Maida Goodwin, Alyssa Pluss, Lori Satter.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
The Arise for Social Justice Records were processed with generous assistance from the Smith College Program for the Study of Women and Gender.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:18-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-12-04: Archived websites and social media added
  • 2020-06-26: Description added for born-digital content
  • 2020-12-07: Added 2 flat file folders
  • 2021-06-30: Added content description from accession inventories

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063