- Clara Wu Tsai spoke to Insider about hosting a coming job fair with the Reform Alliance at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
- Wu Tsai discussed the making of the event and its aim to aid individuals impacted by the criminal justice system.
- The Reform Brooklyn Job Fair will take place on Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
On Monday, Brooklyn's Barclays Center will host the latest iteration of a national job fair series from the Reform Alliance, a non-profit organization for criminal justice reform.
Clara Wu Tsai, vice chair of BSE Global and a founding member of the Reform Alliance, spoke to Insider in a Zoom call on Friday about the event's aim to connect job seekers and employers with an emphasis on aiding formerly incarcerated individuals.
More than 4,400 job seekers have registered to attend the job fair, which will take place at the Barclays Center concourse on Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. The event will host recruiters from 42 employers, with local businesses and national corporations including Amazon, CVS Health, the New York City Fire Department, and more set to attend.
In partnership with the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation's Social Justice Fund and BSE Global, parent company of Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets, and the New York Liberty, the event will also provide free career development resources and guidance from community organizations to help those reentering the workforce overcome obstacles and barriers to employment. Stations for resume-building, interview help, and education on record sealing are among the resources that will be available to attendees.
In our interview, Wu Tsai discussed the making of the job fair and Barclays Center's broader history as a "community and civic center" for Brooklyn residents. She also reflected on the progression of the Reform Alliance, which since its founding in 2019 has helped pass 16 pieces of legislation to reform the probation and parole systems in 10 states.
"This is just one of a series of job fairs that we at Reform will do over the course of the next few years," Wu Tsai said. "I'm really proud of the legislative wins we've had, but we need to also diversify the impact beyond policy to have as much impact as we can for formerly incarcerated citizens as they come back to their homes and into their communities."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What has the approach been broadly in arranging the prospective employers and resources here?
It was a team effort. The whole goal was to get obviously as many really quality employers as possible, as well as a large number of people who we could match with actual jobs. So the approach was really to work with a bunch of different coalitions to get employers to come. We have, and we really worked on getting employers who had real job opportunities. The goal from this is to get people to actually get employment and to stay employed. So it was really important to get employers who had jobs and jobs at the right level for the people that we wanted to be coming to the fair. So the employers that I'm particularly excited about are Amazon, Amtrak, the fire department, Lowe's, CVS, the Trucking Association. There are a lot of employers coming who really have jobs that are specifically for the people that are coming to the fair.
So it was an effort to really find and dig out employers, which we did. Reform had its own network, and we're continuing to develop it because this is just one of a series of job fairs that we're gonna continue to do over the course of the next few years. Because even though I'm really proud of the legislative wins we've had, we need to diversify the impact, beyond the laws, but also really having impact into the communities, and particularly when formerly incarcerated citizens come back into the community. So it was an effort to develop relationships with the employers that are going to be long-term relationships. And then, because we really wanted to make sure that we targeted formerly incarcerated, we also worked with specific groups who have relationships there, so that we can make sure that a good number of people coming really are represented from that population.
How will the event specifically accommodate that focus? How will people coming into Barclays be able to find that as a focus of it?
It's happening on our concourse. It's a pretty large space, and we've set it up so that people can move through different stations. So it starts with resume help, how do you interview. I think there's even a barber service. So in other words, the initial part is really targeted toward people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. And there's also going to be tables with consultants who can advise on how to see whether or not they're qualified to have their records sealed. There's very specific services at the entry part of the fair that are really targeted toward people who've been impacted. So I think that's gonna be quite clear when you walk in. And for sure, when we talked to the employers, we were very clear that that was the segment that we were targeting.
Outside of this event, do you see a greater public utility for Barclays moving forward? How does that work out logistically?
I think of us as a community and civic center. During COVID, we were a testing site, we were a vaccination site. We've held food drives. We held the M/WBE fair for the city of New York with the mayor in attendance. We've already been doing a lot of things that are really for the community and specifically for Brooklyn residents.
Taking a step back, what have you made of the progression of Reform? You touched briefly on its legislative accomplishments. How do you reflect on where this organization has gone in these several years?
Really proud of what we've managed to accomplish because, just within four years, we've passed 16 pieces of legislation in 10 different states, and it's affected 650,000 people to get a pathway out. So just in terms of numbers, and if you are looking for systemic reform, which I am, I'm always looking at root causes and also how to really make systemic change, legislation is really the best path to impact the most number of people. So I think we've developed great working relationships. It's a bipartisan effort. Our team needs to work with other groups in all the different states. So we have that machine developed to some extent, and we're gonna continue to do that. But at the same time, we need to diversify the impact, continue to change 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 these will directly impact people in our communities as they come out into the world.
What else are you looking forward to out of the prospective agenda for Reform in the coming years? Where can the team make the most impact?
Yeah, I think by changing narratives, and I think that that's an area where not a lot of ... it's very expensive to do storytelling and narrative change. So I really think that with the partners that we have — as you know, a lot of our founding partners have great social media followings — that we're set up to be able to spread messages and tell our narrative effectively. And so, doing more campaigns, like we did one recently called, "Give Life Back." We did some really compelling short-form video content talking about parole and people going back due to technical violations rather than criminal violations.
And telling stories around that, being easy for people to grasp the injustices there. So continuing to tell those stories and to tell stories about second chances is really important. Plus, I think you are probably familiar with the data, right? That shows that formerly incarcerated who come out into jobs have just as good of a tenure, if not better, than people who aren't. They stay longer in their jobs. All the data shows that they're great employees. So I want to continue to get people into jobs and continue to story tell and tell the world that they're great employees and are loyal, and can continue to thrive.
Registration for the Brooklyn Job Fair is still open to the public.