Only 43 miles separate Zion Baptist Church in Baltimore from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation's capital, but it would be hard to imagine two more different — and culturally distant — places.
For two hours on a recent Tuesday morning, I sat in on what is called Turnaround Tuesday — a creation of a citizens organization, Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development and an affiliate of the group I co-direct, the Industrial Areas Foundation. Seventy five residents were in their chairs at 9:00 a.m. sharp to participate in a program that was one part AA meeting, one part religious service, one part boot camp, one part job-preparedness training and all parts remarkable. Turnaround Tuesday had been operating for two years, based on BUILD's effective local organizing and the commitment of Baltimore's premier anchor institution, the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, to hire hundreds of residents returning from prison or jail. To date, 274 people have already been hired to living wage jobs, and scores more are in the pipeline.
Greater Cleveland Congregations continues their fight for fairness in the proposed deal from the Cleveland Cavaliers to spend $160 million of public money to upgrade Quicken Loans Arena. GCC is fighting for a dollar-for-dollar match of all public money going into the deal to go towards a Community Equity Fund, which would provide critical supports for Cuyahoga County residents around mental health and addiction services, jobs for the unemployed, and capital improvements in distressed neighborhoods.
On March 9th, GCC held an action with 425 leaders at Elizabeth Baptist Church in the Slavic Village neighborhood as part of their ongoing fight to bring fairness to the proposed deal being pushed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The action featured a number of powerful speakers, including the mother of Alianna DeFreeze, the 14 year-old girl who earlier this year was brutally murdered while on her way to school and whose body was left in a vacant home. Three key members of the Cuyahoga County Council pledged to slow the deal down and stop fast-tracking it.
GCC members will take the fight to Dan Gilbert's doorstep next week. A caravan of families who have been left behind by the ‘Cleveland Renaissance’ will drive to his headquarters in Detroit on March 21st for a daylong demonstration there.
Over 1,300 Muslims, Latinos, Refugees and allies turned out for a successful public negotiation with Sheriff, Police, City, County and School governments. Both the Sheriff and Chief of Police ratified their commitment not to collaborate with ICE and continue strengthening relationships with immigrants and the general community. Durham Public Schools Superintendent agreed to work with CAN in restricting, as much as possible, immigration enforcement activities within the school district's campuses.
While states across the country pass new “campus carry” laws, students and their families deserve access to information on colleges’ policies related to firearms. Therefore:
THE U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION should compile data on campus gun policies; and
COLLEGE PRESIDENTS & COLLEGE RATINGS SERVICES should make this information easily available to current and prospective students.
To read the full petition and sign,
go here: http://bit.ly/2llmO0k
In the last 3 weeks, VOICE trained 325+ leaders including 125 from eight Northern VA mosques and schools. (As of 2017, one-third of the people who attend VOICE member & discerning member institutions are Muslim, 60,000 Muslims.) VOICE leaders took commitments to “twin” with an institution near them that has a community different than them (politically, racially, ethnically, religiously, etc.). VOICE leaders will do listening sessions with their “twinning” partner throughout 2017 to build closer bonds and figure out how we may want to act together locally and at the state level when VA will be one of only two states that will hold a state-wide election.
In an effort to stop a fast track approval for a $160 million renovation for Quicken Loans Arena, Greater Cleveland Congregations held a press conference demanding that money be put back into the community instead. Other demands also included transparency of any proposal terms and a $160 million dollar-for-dollar match of investment into the community through jobs for people from distresses neighborhoods, after-school programs and other uses.
See more video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JQ-70JCB08
More than 200 people packed Cuyahoga County Council chambers February 14th, 2017; resolution to spend 282 million in tax dollars to renovate Quicken Loans Arena at issue.
Members of Greater Cleveland Congregations, a non-partisan coalition which represents 100,000 people across 43 congregations and partner organizations in Cuyahoga County, made up the bulk of the crowd.
"I find this deal unconscionable," said GCC member Donna Weinberger of Solon. "This deal is not fair, equitable and not the best we can do to bring vitality and growth to all our neighborhoods."
More than 600 people packed the sanctuary of Silver Spring UMC to launch Action in Montgomery’s 2017 Listening Campaign and to stake a claim on the future of Montgomery County. Leaders celebrated AIM’s recent victories and called on county officials to ensure that Montgomery County residents are welcomed and treated fairly, regardless of faith or immigration status, and to partner with AIM and the community to expand affordable housing, quality and affordable afterschool care, and to work for a just transit system for workers and riders.
After a Feb 2nd action of over 900 people, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization has been in the news around Criminal Justice, Affordable Housing and Health Care.
“This is the time, We are a close as we’ve ever been.” Massachusetts Senate President Rosenberg said this after committing to pushing through GBIO’s platform on Criminal Justice Reform, which includes pretrial bail reform, the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, the elimination of excessive fees and fines and the elimination of excessive use of solitary confinement.
On Affordable Housing Dr. Jeanette Callahan, of Bethel AME in Roxbury was quoted in the Boston Globe. “It’s time sensitive. There will come a point when people can no longer afford to live in this city,”
In Healthcare, GBIO and more than two dozen additional group groups representing Massachusetts hospitals, nonprofits, labor unions, and other organizations are urging Governor Charlie Baker to oppose any federal policy changes that couldthreaten Medicaid coverage for thousands of poor and disabled people across the state, as well as the viability of the state’s subsidized health care insurance through the exchange.
Rabbi Joel Mosbacher had just finished the morning's Shabbat service when he got an urgent message: Rabbis were needed at New York's Kennedy Airport. People were being detained under President Donald Trump's sharp travel restrictions on refugees. Would he come pray?
By sundown, Mosbacher was part a group of rabbis at the airport, playing guitar and conducting a Havdalah service marking the end of the Sabbath. About 2,000 people gathered to rally against the new policy.
"We know what it's like to be the stranger," said Mosbacher, a Reform rabbi at Temple Shaaray Tefila, noting that Jewish refugees were at times turned away from the U.S. "As a person of faith, it was so important to be there."
From pulpits to sidewalk vigils, clergy have been part of a religious outpouring against Trump's plan to suspend refugee entry from seven majority Muslim countries. Faith leaders who support the president's executive order as a way to fight terrorism have been far less vocal, ceding the religious discussion to those overwhelmingly opposed to the president's sweeping immigration order, which suspends refugee admissions for four months and indefinitely bars refugees from Syria.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which runs the largest refugee resettlement network in the country, said it "strongly disagreed" with the prohibitions and pledged to work "vigorously to ensure refugees are humanely welcomed." The Orthodox Union, the largest association for American Orthodox synagogues, acknowledged the complexities of fighting terror, but said "discrimination of any group solely upon religion is wrong and anathema to the great traditions of religious and personal freedoms upon which this country was founded."
On January 30th, leaders from South Bronx Churches and Manhattan Together held relational meetings with most of the 100 immigrants who came to a legal clinic hosted by the SBC member organization, the Mexican Coalition. Many of these immigrants were eager to build power to make positive change in their communities and beyond. This is the first of several such immigrant focused relationship building events planned for Manhattan and the Bronx over the next two months.
Working with members of the County Council, People Acting Together in Howard (PATH) leaders organized a 1,200 person action in support of a bill that would make Howard County a Sanctuary County. At the action, over 300 people committed to hold house meetings in their communities to understand the challenges facing immigrants today.
See more coverage here:
Over 900 people filled the main sanctuary pews and two overflow rooms at Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plains to call on elected officials to work with Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and the community to address equality and justice during these times of uncertainty. Testimonies of how the Affordable Care Act has saved lives of those in attendance were among the many stories told to pressure the city council, state leaders and those on the national scene to create more affordable housing, protect healthcare and to act on criminal justice reform.
CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO READ ISSUE BRIEFS AND ACCESS PDFs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Angelo Roefaro
October 23, 2015
SCHUMER STANDS WITH MORE THAN 100 NYC METRO-IAF LEADERS TO PUSH LARGE GUN-PURCHASING FEDERAL AGENCIES, LIKE DOD AND DOJ, TO PRESSURE GUN MAKERS TO MAKE SAFER GUNS AND TO CEASE DISTRIBUTING VIA DEALERS WHO FAIL TO COMPLETE BACKGROUND CHECKS; U.S. GOVERNMENT--LARGEST GUN BUYER--MUST USE GUN CONTRACTS TO PROD GUN MAKERS TO STEM TIDE OF GUN VIOLENCE BY IMPROVING GUN SAFETY AND DISTRIBUTION PRACTICES
Schumer & Metro IAF—Nation’s Largest & Longest-Standing Network Of Local Faith & Community-Based Organizations—Say Federal Government and Other Top Gun Purchasers Can Do More To Stem Gun Violence; Fed Government’s Purchasing Power Must be Leveraged to Change Gun Makers’ Deadly Ways
U.S. Government Makes Up 25% of Gun Market; With DOD/Army Currently Considering Massive $580M Purchase of Small Arms, Now Is The Time To Rewrite Requirements For Federal Contracts
Schumer: By Raising The Standards On Which Gun Manufactures Can Do Business With The Federal Government, We Can Make America Safer
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, alongside leaders of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF), LICAN and their “Do Not Sit Idly By” gun safety campaign, pushed a plan using the federal government’s leverage as a top purchaser of guns and ammunition to get gun makers to make improvements to their gun distribution and production practices, which contribute greatly to high rates of gun violence in communities across America.
“The massive purchasing power of federal agencies, like the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, can and should be used to hold gun makers accountable for a lack of gun safety and irresponsible gun distribution – and to change those practice for the better,” said Senator Schumer.
Schumer explained that the U.S. government, including the military and law enforcement agencies, makes up 25 percent of the gun market and, as the nation’s number one buyer of guns from major manufacturers, has leverage to change gun makers’ production and distribution practices in ways that can improve safety in American communities. In fact, Schumer and the Metro IAF pointed out, the Department of Defense is soliciting proposals from gun manufacturers for a $580 million contract to replace the current aging handgun models used by service members. Schumer explained that the federal government should use its significant leverage to garner vital information from gun makers and to prod them to improve gun safety features and their distribution practices.
“While I respect individual rights on this matter, gun violence in America is far too high and we must take sensible steps to reduce gun violence in all our communities. As the number one buyer of guns, the U.S. government should use its significant leverage to hold gun makers accountable for gun safety and gun distribution,” said Senator Schumer. “Our plan is a smart way to use the federal government’s market power to force gun makers to change and to improve the safety in neighborhoods. Our plan will push the gun makers to make smarter guns – innovations that make it harder for these weapons to be used in crimes – and we will push the gun makers not to distribute through dealers who are supplying guns to people who have not passed a background check. I pledge to work with my friends at Metro IAF and everyone across New York to do all I can to help address the scourge of gun violence in sensible ways.”
Specifically, Schumer is calling on the U.S. Army to amend its currently-open $580 million contract for small arms to include provisions that require bidders to supply information about what they are doing to produce so-called ‘smart guns,’ which are harder for criminals to access and use, and what they are doing to bring those guns to market. Further, Schumer is urging the Army to select a gun contractor that agrees to only sell on the civilian market to gun stores that require completed background checks. Senator Schumer will call on federal agencies to follow the example of the bi-partisan group of police chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, county executives, and governors, organized by Metro IAF, by taking two sets of concrete actions: 1) Require bidders on federal gun contracts to provide substantive answers to government queries about their distribution practices and safety technologies, and begin measuring their performance in these areas. 2) Expand research and development on “smart guns” and other safety technologies and explore the law enforcement and military applications of these technologies.
Further, to jump start better research and development of ‘smart gun’ technology and innovation, Schumer is pushing to triple funding to $6 million for Department of Justice to fund Gun Safety Technology grants. Currently, the National Institute of Justice conducts research on smart guns technology, however, Schumer said that even more needs to be done. This year, the National Institute of Justice received $2 million in DOJ grant funding and Schumer is asking that its federal DOJ funding be tripled. Schumer said that increased funding will help further develop technology that exclusively allows only an authorized user to fire a gun and deactivates when used by unauthorized users. Overall, Schumer explained that his plan will help get crime guns off our streets and help reduce gun violence.
“When it comes to sensible gun policy, the federal government has real market power, but it also has the power of example and it can show many other entities how to positively impact the behavior of the gun makers in ways that reduces violence -- without reducing anyone’s rights,” continued Schumer.
Schumer was joined by Rabbi Larry Sebert, Reverend Getty Cruz, Rabbi Stef Kolin, Reverend David K. Brawley, Reverend Gawain de Leeuw, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and leaders from Manhattan Today, South Bronx Churches, East Brooklyn Congregations, Westchester United, LI CAN and EQUAL.
“As the murder of Officer Randolph Holder in East Harlem shows, even New York City is awash in illegal guns,” said Reverend Getulio Cruz, pastor of Monte Sion Christian Church and a leader in Metro IAF. “It’s time for the leading gun manufacturers to sever ties with the nation’s most irresponsible gun dealers. And it’s time for the federal agencies that buy guns from those manufacturers to use their clout in the marketplace to demand that they do.”
“Senator Chuck Schumer has been a leader on guns throughout his career,” said Rabbi Larry Sebert, Senior Rabbi at Town and Village Synagogue. “As well as anyone in America, he knows the limits of what Congress can and will do. He knows, like all of us do, that gun sanity can’t wait for Congress. And he knows that the largest gun buyer in America certainly has a powerful voice in the firearms marketplace.”
A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:
Dear Secretary McHugh,
I understand that the U.S. Army recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new Modular Handgun System procurement competition requiring that proposals from interested contractors be submitted by January 28, 2016. I am writing today to urge the Army to amend the current RFP to include a deliverable requiring prospective contractors to include gun safety measures and distribution practices in their proposals.
The Army regularly purchases hundreds of thousands of guns to arm our forces. In fact, the federal government is the largest purchaser of guns in the country – purchasing more than twenty five percent of the guns and ammunition sold in the United States. The manufacturers who sell guns to the military are the same ones who sell guns to civilian men and women across the country through local dealers and sporting goods stores. Unfortunately, because of a loophole in the background check system, not all guns are sold with a completed background check. During the last five years, more than 15,000 guns were sold to prohibited purchasers with incomplete background checks. This dangerous loophole means that people such as the Charleston killer are able to legally purchase a gun despite past prohibitive behavior.
We know that even a fully functioning background check system cannot prevent all gun violence. We regularly see horrific accidents that could be prevented by smart gun technology, such as an 11 year old boy killing an 8 year old girl in Jefferson County, Tennessee earlier this month, hence the need for better innovations that make weapons workable only for the actual owner.
As a standard part of the Army’s procurement process, I understand you require firearm manufactures to submit proposals with specific deliverables. With this in mind, I urge the U.S. Army to include a deliverable in the current and future RFPs that would require gun manufacturers to agree to solely sell their guns in stores that require completed background checks prior to sale. In addition, I also respectfully request that the amended RFP require all participating bidders to lay out a plan for the development and sale of smart or childproof guns and accessories. The U.S. Army should do all it can to ensure that companies participating in small arms acquisition procurements are held accountable for their involvement in the civilian market, and are properly incentivized to promote smart gun technology and protections. Ideally, the RFP would require bidders on federal gun contracts to provide substantive answers to government queries about their distribution practices and safety technologies, and begin measuring their performance in these areas, and it would expand research and development on “smart guns” and other safety technologies and explore the law enforcement and military applications of these technologies.
There is no question that gun violence in America must be immediately addressed. Requiring manufacturers who participate in the procurement process to develop stronger gun safety measures will not improve public safety in the short term by closing background check loopholes, but lead to development of better protective technology for children and families.
Thank you for your attention to this issue and I look forward to hearing from you.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
What is at stake: Ensuring elected leaders sided with families in their fight against market forces to secure affordable housing and job training. A proposed light rail project has significantly increased property values and rent.
CAN leaders demanded and won support from the Mayor, City Council and County Commissioners for the use of two publicly-owned parcels of land for the construction of affordable housing. Leaders celebrated victory on living wages for thousands of future transit related jobs.
During the action, CAN leaders gained commitments from the Durham Police Chief and the Director of the City of Durham Office of Economic and Workforce Development on the implementation of policies to reduce police profiling and the creation of a job training program for thousands of transit related jobs respectively.
MEDIA ROUNDUP: GREATER CLEVELAND UNITE: WE CAN’T WAIT! CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACTION MAY 26, 2015 (As of 5/27)
Rachel Maddow/MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/watch/doj-issues-reforms-for-cle...
The TakeAway/ WNYC/Public Radio International: http://www.thetakeaway.org/
WCBE (NPR/OH Public Radio): http://wcbe.org/post/hopes-and-expectations-surround-police-reform-agreement
Star Tribune (Minneapolis): http://www.startribune.com/ap-source-cleveland-justice-department-reach-policing-deal/304958701/
For all the anger and mistrust swirling around the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and the release of a critical U.S. Department of Justice report on the use of excessive force by Cleveland police, voices are being raised in clear expectation that meaningful change can be achieved.
These voices come from within the community and from City Hall, where Mayor Frank Jackson has become increasingly forthright about his determination to negotiate a meaningful and -- from his perspective -- fair consent decree with the Justice Department.
The public's input is equally important, and it is heartening to see the Greater Cleveland Congregations, a collection of faith communities, join the dialogue over police reform. They've made a number of recommendations they would like included in a consent decree.
"We see a chance to seize an opportunity, an opportunity to shape changes within the Cleveland police department," Louise McKinney of the Greater Cleveland Congregations said last month during a gathering at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, where her organization handed over its proposals to Jackson and U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach.
Many of the GCC's suggestions make sense, including a greater push toward bias-freepolicing, more diversity on the police force, improved hiring practices and a commitment from both the Justice Department and the city to help pay for the much-needed reforms.
In the wake of the April 2013 attack, which killed three and injured nearly 300 others, it quickly became public that Tsarnaev had embraced a radicalized strain of Islam -- sparking a national discussion about homegrown terror that has only intensified since the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East.
The Muslim American community felt a backlash. Anti-Islamic hate crimes made up13.7 percent of all hate crimes in 2013, compared to 11.6 percent in 2012 -- an increase Pew Research blames in part on the Boston marathon bombing.
The Islamic Society of Boston's mosque in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Tsarnaev and his older brother had reportedly attended services, came under fire in the aftermath of the bombing. Some accused the mosque and its affiliated Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center of fostering extremists, an accusation to which local faith leaders have roundly objected.
"ISBCC has responded to allegations," said Burns Stanfield, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian in Boston and president of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. "I'm convinced that the charges are not accurate."
Stanfield has built relationships with a wide array of Boston interfaith leaders over the years, he told HuffPost over the phone. After the bombing in 2013, the leaders quickly fell back on these relationships to address the community's need for healing. GBIO hosted an event in a church basement shortly after the bombing, inviting community members to reflect on the ways in which violence of all types affected their lives.
"At the end we turned to our neighbor and prayed with one another," Stanfield said. "That was really powerful."
Almost a year later, GBIO gathered 250 interfaith advocates at the Cambridge mosque to discuss "restrengthening" the community. When the call to prayer sounded, Stanfiend recalled, Muslims and non-Muslims alike took 10 minutes to pray and reflect in their own ways.
"It was a very moving moment of just being quiet and being in respect with the way our partners lived their life of faith," he said. "It speaks to what we consider to be the longterm work of knowing each other and trusting each other and building relationships."