Clara Wu Tsai on organizing a Reform Alliance job fair at Barclays Center

  • Clara Wu Tsai spoke to Insider about hosting an upcoming job fair with the Reform Alliance at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
  • Wu Tsai discussed the genesis of the event and its purpose to help individuals affected by the criminal justice system.
  • The Reform Brooklyn Job Fair takes place Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.

On Monday, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will host the latest version of a national job fair series from the Reform Alliance, a nonprofit criminal justice reform organization.

Clara Wu Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets and a founding member of the Reform Alliance, spoke to Insider on a Zoom call Friday about the purpose of the event to connect job seekers and employers, with a focus on helping formerly detained persons.

More than 4,400 job seekers have signed up to attend the job fair, which will take place Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET in the Barclays Center concourse. The event will feature recruiters from 42 employers, with local businesses and national companies including Amazon, CVS Health, the New York City Fire Department and more.

In partnership with the Social Justice Fund of the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation and BSE Global, the parent company of Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Liberty, the event also provides free career development and mentoring resources from community organizations to help returnees labor force overcomes barriers and barriers to employment. Resume building stations, interview assistance, and education on document sealing are among the resources that will be available to attendees.

In our interview, Wu Tsai discussed the genesis of the event and the wider history of Barclays Center as a “community and civic center” for Brooklyn residents. She also reflected on the progress of the Reform Alliance, which since its inception in 2019 has helped pass 16 pieces of legislation to reform probation and parole systems in 10 states.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What has broadly been the approach in arranging the potential employers and resources here?

Yeah, well, it was a team effort. The whole goal, of course, was to get as many really good quality employers as possible, as well as a large number of people that we could match with actual jobs. So the approach was really to work with a number of different coalitions to get employers to come. We did, and we really worked to get employers who had real job opportunities. Because I mean, the purpose of this is to actually get people to work and keep them working. So it was very important to find employers that had jobs and jobs at the right level for the people we wanted to come to the show. So the employers I’m particularly excited about are Amazon, Amtrak, the fire department, Lowe’s, CVS, the Trucking Association. I mean, I think a lot of employers are coming out that really have jobs that are specific to the people coming to the show.

So it was an effort to really find and dig out employers, which we did. Reform had its own network and we continue to develop it, as this is just one of a series of job fairs that we will continue to hold in the years to come. Because even though I’m really proud of the legislative victories we’ve had, we need to diversify the impact, beyond the laws, but also really impact the communities, and especially when formerly incarcerated citizens come back into the community. So it was an effort to build relationships with the employers that will become long lasting relationships. And because we really wanted to make sure we were targeting former inmates, we also worked with specific groups that have relationships there, so we can make sure that a large number of people who come are really represented from that population.

How will the event specifically accommodate that focus? How will people who come to Barclays find that as a focus of it?

First, it happens in our hall. It’s a pretty big space and we’ve set it up so that people can move through different stations. So it starts with resume help, how to conduct a job interview. I think there is even a hairdressing service. In other words, the first part is really aimed at people affected by the criminal justice system. And there will also be tables of advisors who can advise how to see whether or not they are qualified to have their records sealed. There are very specific services at the entrance of the fair that are really aimed at people who are affected. So I think that will be very clear when you come in. And I certainly think when we talked to the employers, we were very clear that that was the segment that we were targeting.

Reform Brooklyn Job Fair

Reform Alliance / BSE Global

Outside of this event, do you see a greater public benefit for Barclays in the future? How does that work logistically?

Oh yeah. Well, absolutely. I mean, I see us as a community and a civic center. During COVID we were a testing site, we were a vaccination site. We have held food campaigns. We held the M/WBE fair for the city of New York in the presence of the mayor. I mean, we’ve already done a lot of things that are really for the community and specifically for Brooklyn residents.

reform alliance launch jay-z meek mill clara wu tsai

Wu Tsai at the 2019 launch of the Reform Alliance, featuring founders including Jay-Z, Robert Kraft, Michael Rubin, Meek Mill, and Van Jones.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

What do you think of the reform progress, a step back? You briefly touched on legislative achievements. How do you look back on where this organization has gone in recent years?

Really proud of what we’ve accomplished, because in just four years, we’ve passed 16 laws in 10 different states and impacted 650,000 people to clear a road. So just in terms of numbers and if you’re looking for systemic reform which I am I always look at the root causes and also how to really make systemic change legislation is really the best way to get the most number of people to influence . So I think we’ve developed great working relationships. It’s a two-pronged effort. Our team needs to work with other groups in all the different states. So we’ve developed that machine to some degree, and we’ll continue to do so. But at the same time, we need to diversify the impact, keep changing the narrative around second chances and how important it is. And we also need to have real impact in the communities through initiatives like these job and opportunity fairs because they will have a direct impact on people in our communities as they go out into the world.

What else are you looking forward to on the future reform agenda in the coming years? Where can the team make the most impact?

Yeah, I think by changing stories, and I think that’s an area where not much … it’s very expensive to tell stories and change stories. So I really think with the partners that we have, as you know, a lot of our founding partners have great social media followings, I think we’re set up to be able to spread messages and tell our story effectively. And so we did more campaigns, like we recently did a campaign called “Give Life Back.” We’ve made some really engaging short video content about parolees and people going back for technical violations rather than criminal violations.

And I think telling stories around that is easy for people to understand the injustices there. So it’s very important to continue to tell those stories and second chance stories. Plus, I think you’re probably familiar with the data, right? That shows that former inmates who get jobs have as good, if not better, terms of office than those who aren’t. They stay in their job longer. All data shows that they are great employees. So I want to continue to get people to work and continue to tell stories and tell the world that they are great employees and are loyal, and can continue to thrive.

Registration for the Brooklyn Job Fair is still open to the public.

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