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IRTF Events Calendar

October 24, 2021 to October 31, 2021: Community Shares fundraiser - Tri-C Autumn Blaze 5K

Note: IRTF is one of 36 members of Community Shares of Greater Cleveland, a federation of social justice organizations. Donations to Community Shares are distributed each quarter to the 36 member organizations.  Each member organization is invited to participate in Community Shares activities (and, for doing so,  earns points to remain in good standing as a member). If you would like to participate in this activity on behalf of IRTF, please let us know: or 216 961 0003.

How to participate and benefit IRTF:

  • Register yourself for the race (3 points)
  • Sponsor a Tri-C student for the race (3 points) 

Registration Link:   

From Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C):

Proceeds from seventh annual race benefit three nonprofit organizations

For the second year in a row, the Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®) Autumn Blaze 5K will take place virtually, with participants having eight days to complete the race on their own at any location.

Runners and walkers can hit the road, track or treadmill any time between Oct. 24 and 31.

Proceeds from the seventh annual Autumn Blaze will benefit Greater Cleveland Community Shares, the United Negro College Fund and United Way of Greater Cleveland. Tri-C launched the event in 2015 as part of its annual community giving campaign.

Last year’s virtual race raised more than $6,000 for the nonprofit agencies while attracting more than 180 participants.

Finishers can submit their time to compete for medals by age group. Participants are encouraged to share photos on social media using #AutumnBlaze5K.

Online registration is available at Registration is $25 for community members or $20 for Tri-C students. All preregistered runners and walkers will receive a beanie with the Autumn Blaze logo.

The race took place at Tri-C’s Western Campus from 2015 to 2019, shifting to a virtual format last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

September 21, 2021

Erik Cassano, 216-987-3577 or

November 5, 2021 to November 6, 2021: Fair Trade: Equal Exchange Summit

Join Equal Exchange for an exciting set of workshops on corporate consolidation, alternative supply chains, and building a more just food system. 


Equal Exchange annual summits are a cornerstone of our alternative trade community. Join us for an exciting set of workshops, a keynote address from one of our producer partners, FRIDAY, NOV 5: Attendees will be able to choose from an array of workshops offered in two evening sessions. SATURDAY, NOV 6: Keynote address by  Saleem Abu Ghazaleh of Al-Reef Fair Trade and Izzat Zeidan of Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC) in the West Bank who will be giving this year’s keynote address. Also: our annual Citizen-Consumer (aka Food Action Forum) member meeting. Go deeper with Equal Exchange, learn about our model, and get to know our community. Stay tuned for more updates soon by RSVPing to the summit here .


Saleem Abu Ghazaleh was born in Jerusalem (old city) in 1967. He joined the Agricultural Development Association (PARC) 32 years ago in the early stages of its establishment. He was assigned to work at Al-Reef Fair Trade in 1993 and he is currently the general manager. Al-Reef Fair Trade is owned by PARC and considered a professional arm and a legal body for agricultural marketing and manufacturing to support Palestinian farmers and cooperatives.

Saleem has a master’s degree in Capabilities Building and Strategic Planning from Al-Quds University. His master’s thesis topic was “Role of Fair Trade in Sustainable Rural Development in the West Bank”. He is one of the founders of the concept, ideology, and philosophy of fair trade and contributes to spreading that culture in Palestine.

Izzat Zeidan was born in Palestine/West Bank in 1963. He started working at PARC in 1998, and has been the head of the Program Department since 2014. He is an expert in the field of rural development, donor community relations, and rules and requirements. He holds a master’s degree in water and waste water management from Birzeit University. He believes in integrated rural development and the necessity of public/private partnership. His values align with PARC’s values of gender equality, social accountability and justice, and social inclusion.

Keep an eye on your inbox for more updates on programming, activities, and announcements for this inspiring event!

Not yet a member of Equal Exchange’s Food Action Forum? Join our membership (free) at:

In Solidarity,   Equal Exchange

Please continue reading more about the Equal Exchange organizing effort called the Food Action Forum (aka Citizenship-Consumer Network):

Members of the Equal Exchange Food Action Forum gather (online) monthly to discuss innovation, global solidarity, social imagining and learning, and economic justice—the foundations of Alternative Trade Organizations (ATOs). Join the movement to democratize our food system and end corporate control!

Alternative Trade Organizations (such as Equal Exchange) have foundational influence in the broader fair trade movement but have become isolated from even their most natural allies including coops, citizen movements, community economic organizations, unions, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The monthly meetings of the Equal Exchange Food Action Forum (aka Citizen-Consumer Network) allow all of us to connect, build community, and have space to push our campaigns forward and engage in actions out in our local communities. In today’s overwhelmingly digital world we want to find ways to create meaningful and deep connections with this community, connections that are two-way, connections that are active, not passive.  Join us as we work together to build a democratic brand that connects small farmers in the Global South to consumers in the Global North!

 What are ATOs? Alternative Trade Organizations (ATOs) are at risk

Equal Exchange was founded in 1986 as an alternative trade organization (ATO) with the mission of connecting US consumers and small marginalized farmers from the global south from countries like Nicaragua, Peru, or India.  The vitality (and survivability) of ATOs is at risk because of increasing isolation from even their most natural allies like food co-ops. Here are some other reasons: 


1) Fair-Washing: Fair Trade is being stripped of its original meaning

The Fair Trade idea may have won successes in the last 10 years, but those successes have been limited. And in the process of gaining recognition and support, control has been wrested from small farmers and turned into a marketing attribute at the service of northern companies; it has been commodified and stripped of all real meaning. While some northern ATOs are still here and hundreds of farmer groups in the Global South hang on, "Fair Trade” as envisioned 30 years ago, is no longer recognizable.


2) Corporate Control: Our food system is being controlled by large corporations

In the wider food system, corporations control everything from seeds to supply and prices, while relentlessly chipping away at the regulations that inform and protect consumers. They fight feverishly to prevent us from knowing if GMOs are present in our food. They continue to promote production methods that hasten the warming of the planet—a present-day threat to millions of small farmers and others around the world. And, corporations count on consumers remaining unorganized to maintain the status quo.   


3) Consumers Can Make a Huge Difference: We need active consumer involvement

We now know that we cannot possibly succeed in our goal to transform the food system without the active, deep and committed participation of citizen-consumers like you. An authentic Fair Trade system requires democratic organizing of producers in the South, worker democracy for businesses in the North, and active consumer involvement in the North. 


What Are We Building?

We are taking a powerful, new step in building a democratic brand that connects small farmers in the South to consumers in the North. We believe that in order to be successful in realizing the original Fair Trade vision, we need to deepen involvement and participation in our model. In doing this, we go back to the best that Alternative Trade has always been about: innovation, global solidarity, social imagining and learning, and economic justice. This will be a long, slow process and a great challenge. We need your buying support, your investing support, and your political support. 


Please join us in building this dream. We invite you to help us shape the Equal Exchange Food Action Forum. 


November 7, 2021: IRTF's 41st annual Commemoration of the Martyrs of Central America and Colombia
5pm social hour, 6-8pm program

Please share the Facebook event for our Commemoration on November 7 2021

Please purchase tickets of pay for sponsorship ads via the EventBrite site

Rising Together, Resisting Extraction

Resisting Extraction, Rising Together

On Sunday, November 7, 2021, the InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF) will hold a special online gathering to mark the 41st anniversary of the ultimate sacrifice made by two Cleveland women in El Salvador (Jean Donovan and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel of Cleveland), along with Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke. The four women paid with their lives for their decision to stay in solidarity with poor, marginalized victims of the US-sponsored armed violence, which eventually claimed the lives of 75,000 Salvadorans and the led to the mass exodus of 1 million refugees.  IRTF was founded by people of faith and conscience to honor their powerful witness and carry forward their legacy of solidarity. 

Please join us to celebrate IRTF’s four decades of solidarity with the people of Central America and Colombia: promoting peace, justice, human rights, and systemic transformation through nonviolence.

Individual tickets: $40 suggested ticket donation (or free will offering). Purchase via Eventbrite or mail your donation to IRTF: 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113. Include your email address so that we can send you the link.

Group tickets: $240 for "table" of 8 people (please add $30 per additional person). We are creating places (online) during the evening when you and other members of your group "table" can enjoy each other's company.  If you would like to order a group "table," please fill out the google form here or call (216) 961 0003. 

Program book sponsors: Please fill out the google form here or call (216) 961 0003 or email by October 27. You can also print out the form that is attached to this page and mail it with your donation to IRTF. 

Sponsor levels: 

$100 1/4-page color ad

$150 1/2-page color ad

$250 full-page color ad + logo listed on the sponsorship page

$500 full-page color ad + logo listed on the sponsorship page + 30-second video greeting

$1,000 full-page color ad + logo listed on the sponsorship page + 60-second video greeting

DEADLINE: Please submit your high-resolution ad by October 27. 

Questions? Call IRTF at (216) 961 0003


Rising Together, Resisting Extraction

Each year we gather to mark the sacrifice of Jean, Dorothy, Ita, and Maura, the four US women who were killed in El Salvador in 1980.   IRTF was founded 40 years ago in response to the killing of these four women, but we continue our work today because human rights defenders continue to be threatened, criminalized and killed for daring to speak truth to power.  We gather to honor those killed today for standing up for human rights, and recommit ourselves to act in solidarity with poor and marginalized communities in Central America and Colombia.

Policies and practices of the US government and corporations have accelerated the extraction of resources from Honduras, especially since the military coup in 2009.  The people of Honduras, however, remain resolute in their resistance to the threats to their communities, their lands, their waterways—their very existence.  One example is the organized effort to protect the Guapinol River.   Three years ago, US-supported police and military—heavily armed with rifles, shields, clubs and tear gas bombs—evicted a defenseless and peaceful population from the Encampment for Life. Community members had organized the encampment to stop construction of an iron oxide mine, meant to supply US steel maker Nucor Steel.  People were beaten and wounded; three persons were temporarily detained, and three people were killed.  

Since 2019, eight members of the Environmental Committee of the Community of Guapinol have been held in pre-trial detention (without bail) awaiting trial on trumped charges. While the Guapinol 8 water defenders remain behind bars, their fellow community members continue their organized resistance to keep Nucor Steel from polluting their water source and tearing apart their community. They ask for our solidarity in their efforts.



 5-6pm Social Hour:

music , social justice art, spoken word, music

6pm Opening Remarks

6:20pm Interfaith Prayer Service

This special program commemorates Jean, Dorothy, Ita, and Maura, along with too many others who have been killed this past year for their witness and actions in defense of human rights.

7pm Speaker Program (simultaneous translation provided: Spanish to English, and English to Spanish)

Our guest speakers from Honduras are:

-a representative from the Environmental Committee of the Community of Guapinol

-Karen Spring, host of the Honduras Now! podcast and longtime co-coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network


7:45pm Local Guest

-Meletke Melaku, bail reform campaign organizer, ACLU of Ohio


8pm Closing Remarks


8:05pm Break-Out session with your group table (optional)



Online Raffle

Info and links to the raffle soon. Stay tuned!


Program Book

We hope you’ll affirm IRTF’s four decades of education, advocacy, organizing, and action for human rights. Please ask your congregation or community group to place a sponsorship ad in our 41st anniversary program book. Please see our website for more information on how you can support this critical work of cross-border, cross-sectional solidarity.

Thank you. IRTF staff and Board of Trustees



More info about our guest speakers


The Environmental Committee of the Community of Guapinol is one of several groups in the Atlantic coastal region of Honduras that make up the Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP, or Municipal Committee for the Defense of Common and Public Goods), based in Tocoa, Colón Department. Other member groups that are defending land and environmental rights include: the Environmental Committees of Sector San Pedro (13 communities), Sector Committee Abisinia (14 communities), campesino groups that form the  Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares del Aguán (COPA, or Coordinating Body of the People’s Organizations of the Aguán Valley), Fundación San Alonso Rodríguez (FSAR) and Parroquia San Isidro de Tocoa. The objective of CMDBCP is to provide a platform to mobilize resources to protect public resources, advocating for the right to food, water and a safe environment.

Since 2019, eight members of the Environmental Committee of the Community of Guapinol have been held in pre-trial detention (without bail) awaiting trial on false criminal charges. IRTF has been actively involved in a campaign (through participation in the Honduras Solidarity Network) with the community groups in Honduras to free the Guapinol 8. The political prisoners are scheduled for trial on December 2, 2021.


Karen Spring,  host of the Honduras Now! podcast and longtime co-coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network. Based in Honduras for the past decade, Karen is in regular communication with the Guapinol water defenders.

Karen's work involves educating North Americans about the impacts of U.S. and Canadian foreign policy in Honduras and the region. Having lived in Honduras for more than a decade, Karen supports community-based organizations defending their natural resources and territories against mining, hydroelectric dams, tourism, and other large-scale "development" projects. A large emphasis on her work is also the impacts of privatization on public sector services and the role of militarization and foreign security policies on human rights.

Karen has been published in the Huffington Post and together with Sandra Cuffe, co-authored articles for Alternet, Truthout and Upside Down World  .

 See some of Karen Spring’s writing at

Mining in impunity: Coerced negotiations and forced displacement by Aura Minerals in Western Honduras.


Meletke Melaku is an organizing strategist for the ACLU of Ohio, heading up the campaign to eliminate cash bail in Ohio.   After graduating from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Meletke joined CityYear and did a year of volunteer service in public education. She provided individual and group coursework interventions, socio-emotional coaching, and coordinated programming for a multidisciplinary arts after-school curriculum. She developed a school-wide attendance awareness initiative with school administration that contributed to the rise of average daily attendance by over 10% by end of year. Meletke also has extensive experience canvassing and organizing on behalf of issues related to environmental justice, mass incarceration, voter rights, and access to quality education.

Meletke believes that any pursuit of justice begins by cultivating deep connections to the people directly impacted, coupled to advocacy and potential for policy change.


InterReligious Task Force on Central America

3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113

(216)961 0003


IRTF is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt charitable organization.

Federal tax ID: 34-1853821 .