We are sorry to announce that Msgr. John Powis passed away yesterday after a long illness. Msgr. Powis was a founding leader of EBC when he served as pastor of Presentation Parish in Oceanhill-Brownsville. He then moved to Bushwick, where he led St. Barbara's Parish for many years. Msgr. Powis was part of a small team of priests that led the negotiations with the late Bishop Francis J. Mugavero as EBC began its Nehemiah Plan in 1982 and 1983. He was a relentless champion of the people of East Brooklyn and an unwavering partner to all the clergy and lay leaders of EBC and Metro IAF. He loved the New York Mets, loved being a parish priest, loved Brooklyn, and loved EBC.
His spirit and toughness inspired us all.
Mike Gecan, IAF Senior Organizer & Dr. David K. Brawley, EBC Co-Chair
[Photo Credit: Linda Rosier, NY Times]
Arizona Interfaith Network and their education coalition partners have halted the lowest so-called “flat tax” ever enacted by a state. By demanding a referendum on Senate Bill 1828, the coalition stopped the destructive reworking of Arizona’s tax code that would have reduced revenue by over $1 billion annually, putting future generations of Arizonans at risk. Instead the tax cut proposal will be referred to the 2022 ballot.
National anti-tax groups see Arizona’s tax legislation as a path to replicate, as evidenced by op-eds by the likes of Grover Norquist touting Arizona as a “national model”. This puts AIN’s fight into a larger context of citizens demanding responsible stewardship and preservation of state budgets that should be put to work for the good of their state, even in the face of well-funded outside interest groups.
The utter lack of political will to invest in future generations has got to stop.
Rev. Jeff Procter Murphy, a leader with Valley Interfaith Project, said at the press conference, “This has got to stop – this utter lack of political will to invest in future generations has got to stop. For too long we have neglected our responsibility to future generations. …
"They’ve decided to radically restructure our tax code to reward the very wealthy on the backs of everyone else. They did so on the narrowest of margins, and they thought we wouldn’t notice. This is an affront to the voters of our state. It’s an insult to our teachers, and it’s a direct attack on the very people that all of us, people of faith, are instructed to protect: children, the vulnerable, those who live on the margins and who have suffered the most in this pandemic.”
[In photo, Rev. Jeff Procter Murphy; photo credit InvestInAZ Campaign video]
School Advocates Turn in Petitions to Overturn Arizona's $1 Billion Tax Cut, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Petitions Turned in, Apparently Will Force Public Vote on Arizona Tax Cut, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
Foes of Massive Arizona Tax Cuts File to Block Them, Associated Press [pdf]
“The historical truth is that no single person—no matter how
gifted—has led complex social change on her own.”
-- BUILD leader Rev. Glenna Huber, Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
The pandemic made clear what we’ve previously known but rarely embodied: American cultural individualism is not sustainable. For people of faith, this individualism is not supported by scripture. Ever since the beginning, the Divine is recorded as creating with an eye toward relationships, and humans create in relationship with each other as well as their Creator....
This myth of individualism has even infected the way we talk about the social movements of the past. We love to tell stories of unilateral decisions by prophets “speaking truth to power.” We imagine Rosa Parks refusing to get out of her seat as a single, solitary event. We tell stories of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. looking to the heavens for a dramatic word. We imagine Harriet Tubman driving the underground railroad all by herself. These stories are not so much untrue as incomplete. They neglect the way that individuals were shaped by the institutions of their time and how that shaping gave rise to their courage. They ignore the teams of people whose collective efforts produced individual actions and leveraged those actions for larger change. The historical truth is that no single person—no matter how gifted—led complex social change on her own.
[In photo at podium Rector Glenna Huber (center) and Pastor Andrew Connors (right) stand with former BUILD cochair Bishop Douglas Miles, who died last month.]
Leveraging the Power of Relational Organizing, Christian Century
Residents of a 50-unit mobile home park in Wake Forest, NC organized through ONE Wake to secure $375,000 in relocation expenses from the Town of Wake Forest and developer Middleburg Communities. As a result, each household in the park will receive roughly $12,500.
Six months ago, residents of the mobile home park received notice that their park would be closed to make way for the development of a 275-unit upscale single family home development. Since then, resident leaders have organized their power for a series of actions, including a July, 2021 press conference with over 200 people that brought developer Middleburg Communities to the negotiating table.
On September 21, over 50 residents and ONE Wake leaders rallied outside of the Wake Forest Town Hall and successfully urged their Town Commissioners to vote yes on rezoning conditions that hold the developer accountable for compensating residents for their displacement.
This campaign was one in a series of mobile home park campaigns organized by IAF affiliates in North Carolina to respond to the pressure from major developers, global investment firms, and hedge funds that have begun to purchase and flip parks all across the state.
Wake Forest Approves New Homes, with More Money to Move Mobile Home Park Residents, Raleigh News & Observer [pdf]
IAF organizations across the country developed strategies to bring vaccines to the communities that were hardest hit by COVID-19 and had the least access to the vaccine. From registration events to vaccination clinics paired with neighborhood walks, IAF leaders showed that getting shots in arms requires organizing.
In one of the early campaigns, One LA-IAF leaders in Los Angeles organized the effort to vaccinate close to 900 senior citizens and essential workers in the hard-hit South LA community around St. Brigid Catholic Church.
"The issue is vaccine access," said Jim Mangia, President and CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center in an interview with ABC National News. "Most people in South LA have not had access to the vaccine. There's not hesitancy - people have questions of course, but people want to get vaccinated. The issue is that there was nowhere for them to go."
Nowhere to go, that is, until One LA leaders began organizing. After months of advocating for a more equitable vaccination campaign targeting hard-hit neighborhoods, One LA leaders secured a partnership with Supervisor Holly Mitchell and medical partner St. John's Well Child & Family Center to bring the vaccines to the neighborhood around St. Brigid Catholic Church.
"Unfortunately, it is one of the least vaccinated areas in Los Angeles," said Fr. Kenneth Keke, Pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church. "One in five residents have had Covid-19, and only 1 in 18 have been vaccinated. We are going to change that. We don't want anybody left behind."
Over the course of four days, One LA leaders went door to door, passed out flyers and called 4,000 households. The targeted approach shielded the vaccine supply from out-of-the-area "vaccine chasers," but more importantly reached people who otherwise wouldn't be able to access the vaccine at all.
Meaghan Myrtle, a 90 year old resident of the neighborhood, had been trying for months to secure an appointment. Ms. Myrtle had no access to transportation or the internet. "This church called me back. Nobody else called me back."
[Photo credits: Top, One LA-IAF Vaccine event, Rafael Paz; Right top, Together New Orleans neighborhood outreach event, Bobbi-Jeanne Misick, New Orleans Public Radio, Right bottom, Fr. Kenneth Keke, St. Brigid Catholic Church, Los Angeles, NBC News]
Group Gives Help to Vaccine Candidates, NBC 4 Los Angeles [video]
Fight for Vaccine Equity, ABC News National [video]
A Los Angeles Pilot Program Will Vaccinate Hundreds Within 2-Mile Radius of a Catholic Church, Religion News Service [pdf]
Churches in LA's Working-Class Neighborhoods Urge: 'Bring the Vaccine to the People', Religion News Service [pdf]
Together Louisiana / Together New Orleans:
The Latest Phase of Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Is Slow, Deliberate and on the Ground, New Orleans Public Radio [pdf]
Dallas Area Interfaith:
Many Faith Leaders in North Texas Embracing their Role in Vaccine Push, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
The Metropolitan Organization Houston:
Coalition Brings Vaccines to Beaumont Residents in At-Risk Areas, Beaumont Enterprise [pdf]
Jornada de Vacunación en Ciudad con Gran Población Hispana, Telemundo [en español]
Putting Our Faith & Commitment to Democracy in Action, Southeast Texas Faith & Community Leaders
Valley Interfaith Project:
It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Bishop Douglas Miles, IAF Co-Chair and BUILD Co-Chair Emeritus, passed away August 3, 2021 after complications from heart surgery.
Bishop was a giant of a man, pastor, leader and friend. For more than 50 years, Bishop Douglas Miles (in photo from left, marching with Pastor Prentice at right) has been on the front-lines of every major social change in Baltimore and every major fight led by IAF.
As longstanding Metro IAF and BUILD Leader Carol Reckling said, “It’s almost unfathomable to grasp Bishop’s reach. One way or another he impacted every one of us."
We were blessed with one of the greatest. We are all part of his legacy. We miss him dearly and are reminded of the words from God to the prophet that Bishop often closed out actions with, "Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us? And the voice of the prophet responded, 'Here am I, send me.’”
Let us continue to answer the call and fight the good fight. As we grieve his loss, may his incredible prophetic voice, brilliant wisdom, deep laughter, and shared memory guide us.
Please hold his dear wife Rose Miles, sons Pastor Dante and Harvey Miles, his entire family, Koinonia Baptist Church and BUILD in your prayers.
Leaders Applaud AB832 for Keeping Families Housed & Rental Assistance Flowing
Thousands of leaders across California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations celebrated a new deal announced by the Governor and state legislators to extend the state’s eviction moratorium and rent relief program that was set to expire June 30, 2021.
The California IAF specifically applauds State leaders for:
- Extending the eviction ban to September 30, 2021
- Paying 100% of overdue rent and utilities paid for landlords and tenants
- Providing up to18 months of rental assistance for past and future rent
- Allowing either tenants or land lords to receive funds
- Forestalling evictions until rental assistance applications are attempted
On June 3rd, 2021, over 600 California IAF leaders convened on Zoom -- along with Catholic Bishop Oscar Cantú (whose op-ed can be read here), Episcopal Bishop Lucinda Ashby and two state legislators -- to call for an extension of the eviction moratorium and expansion of SB91 to allow more flexibility with rental assistance distribution to keep families housed. California IAF organized hundreds of phone calls and emails to State Senators, Assembly members and the Governor asking for more time and flexibility to get funds to families who missed rent due to the pandemic.
“California IAF leaders are pleased our state legislators acted to protect our families from eviction and provide 100% of rent owed. Our thanks go to Senators Caballero, Durazo, Laird and Weiner and Assemblymembers Chiu, Bloom, Reyes and Santiago for leading the charge on behalf of our families," said Rabbi Paula Marcus of Temple Beth El, Aptos. "We would have preferred a 6 month extension, but we will turn our focus now to local organizing meetings so our families understand their rights and how to apply for rental assistance.”
“By sharing our stories with state agency staff and legislators, our recommendations were accepted to allow for easier income verification and tenants with informal leases to be included as eligible for assistance. By making future months of rent available, this will allow tenants like me to be able to cover my rent while I pay off the debts to my family and credit card that I took on to keep my landlord paid,” said Lourdes Rios, COPA leader in Santa Cruz County.
Central Coast Reacts to the Extension of the Eviction Moratorium, Noticias Ya [video in Spanish]
Santa Cruz County Housing Advocates Seek State Eviction Moratorium Extension, Santa Cruz Sentinel [pdf]
Local Leaders Ask for Extension of Moratorium on Evictions in California, Telemundo [en español] [pdf]
California IAF Action on Renter Protection, California IAF
Hundreds of Advocates Urge Gov. Newsom to Expand SB91, Good Times [pdf]
With Assistance Lagging, State Must Extend Rental Eviction Moratorium, Santa Cruz Sentinel [pdf]
Hundreds of Advocates Urge Gov. Newsom to Expand SB91, The Pajaronian [pdf]
JOE RUBIO TO BEGIN AS IAF CO-DIRECTOR
Dear IAF Leaders, Organizers, Allies and Friends --
After over 50 years organizing and building the West/Southwest IAF region, Ernesto Cortes Jr. will be transitioning from IAF Co-Director to a new role as IAF senior advisor. Mr. Cortes officially submitted his transition plan to our Board in January, and he and the IAF Board have carefully planned this process over the past year.
We are also pleased to announce that Joe Rubio, long-time IAF senior organizer, will succeed Mr. Cortes as Co-Director effective July 1, 2021. Mr. Rubio, who has organized and supervised IAF projects in Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, will join Martin Trimble, IAF’s other Co-Director, who succeeded Mike Gecan in 2019.
The IAF Board is deeply grateful for Mr. Cortes’ leadership and work to build the modern IAF in the West/Southwest, developing some of the most powerful and enduring non-partisan, broad-based citizens’ organizations in the country. We are gratified that, as a senior advisor, he will continue to offer seasoned guidance for organizer formation, leadership training, and development of the region.
Under Mr. Cortes’s leadership, the West/SW IAF has grown to 30 member affiliates, beginning in the early 1970’s with the founding of Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in San Antonio, which pioneered institutionally based membership organizations. Since then, West/Southwest IAF won transformative victories to bring billions of dollars in major infrastructure improvements, education finance reform, health care, immigrant rights, and workforce training, among others. These victories have dramatically changed the face of communities throughout the region. Even more importantly, these IAF organizations have identified and trained thousands of leaders who learned to enter public life and create long-term change.
As you all know, there is only ONE Ernesto Cortes, and his contributions have been irreplaceable. We look forward to honoring and celebrating Mr. Cortes’ IAF leadership at a collective celebration sometime in the near future when we can all gather together in person.
Bishop Douglas Miles
Bishop Joel Martinez
June 18, 2021, New Jersey Together organizer Boris Franklin spoke at the state’s first event commemorating Juneteenth held at Calvary Baptist Church in Paterson. At the event, he shared his story and the stories of those directly impacted by the criminal justice system that we’ve listened to in Jersey City & Morris County in recent years.
Gov. Murphy then signed into law the “Fair Chance in Housing Act” that prohibits landlords from asking about a person’s criminal record and limits their use of background checks. The law will be the strongest of its kind in the country.
If you haven’t read the New York Times article profiling Boris’s story and the legislation when the bill passed both houses of the legislature, take a few moments to read it now.
New Jersey Together testified about this bill in Trenton, sharing stories we had heard about the impact on individuals and families we had met who had struggled to access housing because of a past criminal record.
Leadership on this campaign came from Fair Share Housing Center, with strong support from organizations like the Reform Action Center NJ, the NAACP, and many others. Legislative leadership came from Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter, Senator Troy Singleton, Assemblywomen Angela McKnight & Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, as well as from Speaker Coughlin and Senate President Sweeney.
After three years of sustained organizing work by the leaders of CONECT, Gov. Ned Lamont signed the Clean Slate bill into law on June 10, 2021.
“Let this hard-fought win be a model for how states across the country can begin to end the continuing harm of mass incarceration, particularly in its targeting of Black and brown individuals, and build safer, more prosperous communities.” said Rev. Anthony L. Bennett, pastor of Mt. Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport and co-chair of CONECT.
Clean Slate is the automatic erasure of criminal records for certain convictions after between seven and 10 years, for individuals who remain free of the criminal justice system upon release from custody. There was a process to apply for erasure in Connecticut, but the application process was burdensome, costly, bureaucratic, and subjective.
To put this momentous win in perspective:
Clean Slate is a racial justice issue. In Connecticut, black people are 9.4 times more likely than white people to be incarcerated, and Latinx people are 3.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than white people. The effects of this systemic racism would persist for decades to come without Clean Slate.
Clean Slate improves public safety. When people's records are erased, they gain access to jobs, housing, and higher education. Recidivism rates dramatically decrease as a result. That makes everyone safer.
Clean Slate boosts the economy. One 2016 study estimates that the collective national impact of the shackles of a criminal record reduces our GDP each year between $78 billion and $87 billion. Based on Connecticut's population, this means the loss of between $859 million and $958 million in economic activity each year in our state. Clean Slate will create job opportunities for thousands of CT residents, thereby expanding our state’s economic growth.
Read CONECT's letter, with Clean Slate allies, commemorating the victory and urging legislators to continue to support Clean Slate.