Table flipped at Howard S. Wright construction firm in protest of proposed new youth jail in Seattle

This is what it can look like when Healing Communities moves beyond the walls of the church.

The Dignity Virus

Monday, March 30th 2015

Members of EPIC (Ending the Prison Industrial Complex) and YUIR (Youth Undoing Institutional Racism) joined with local clergy and activists to protest the “Children and Family Justice Center”, that will be replacing the current youth detention center in the coming years. The activists met at Key Arena and walked to the Howard S. Wright construction headquarters where activists set up a table in the lobby of the Wright Construction office. Then, scripture was read, first by Lauren Cannon, then Mike Denton. Rick Derksen then explained why a table was being flipped and compared the action to Jesus in the temple, flipping tables of the bankers. As soon as the collective group flipped the table, it was packed up, leaving coins and letters on the floor and a letter was delivered to the Howard S. Wright Construction company by Brandon Duran. Activists then left the building to…

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Healing Communities: Faith in the Age of Mass Incarceration

This from our friend and colleague Chris Pierson over at Just Peace Cafe. Check him out!

Just Peace Cafe

The core challenge to ending mass incarceration is dispelling the myth that some of us are not worthy of genuine care, concern, concern, and compassion.” – Michele Alexander, author The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

How do I, as a Christian, feel about my own family member or someone I know who is incarcerated? Why do we feel this way about those who commit crimes in our communities? What are we afraid of and why? How do we as a community move beyond denial? What do the scriptures (John 20:23) tell us about our behavior?

These are just some of the difficult questions that representatives from eleven churches in the Northern Illinois Conference wrestled with recently as they gathered to explore ways that their congregations can do the healing work of reconciliation and transformation among those who have caused harm, those who have…

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What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege

More on White Privilege . . .

A Little More Sauce

The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”

I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than…

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The Definition of Insanity

They tell me I’m insane. They say I have a mental disease called addiction. My mother hates to hear me say it but it makes sense to me. You see for a few years in my life I kept doing the same thing and expecting different results. My drug of choice? Cocaine, I tried all kinds of different ways to use cocaine without suffering the dire consequences that came along as a result. It seems no matter how I used cocaine, as long as I kept doing the same thing (using cocaine) I kept getting the same results; jail, homelessness, pennilessness, etc. They told it was the very definition of insanity. Makes sense to me.

I was recently in conversation with a friend whom I have known for quite some time. She knew that I had been married at one time but wasn’t sure. “Now how many times have you been married?” she asked. When I told her that I had been married and divorced three times, she suggested that the issue just might not be entirely with the women that I’d married. Again I say, “Makes sense to me.”

Despite my insane cocaine use, and unsuccessful attempts at marriage I nevertheless found myself in a meeting at the White House along with other civil and human rights advocates. The primary topic of conversation was about the events in Ferguson Missouri where an unarmed Black teenager was murdered by a white police officer. As I sat and looked around the table and listened to advocates talk about the programs that they had either established or are in the process of implementing in Ferguson, or communities like it throughout the country something occurred to me. The thought came into my mind that with all of these programs and strategies in place or being implemented in Black and Brown communities nothing seems to significantly change.

I began to think of my own experience and what “makes sense to me”. Maybe if we keep changing one program after another to improve the condition of the Black and Brown communities, and they continue to be in dire need of help and development, maybe, just maybe it is not entirely the Black and Brown communities we should be looking to “fix”. If we have been trying different ways of doing the same thing and expecting different results they tell me that is the very definition of insanity.

Could it be that we are addicted to privilege, specifically white privilege? Tim Wise makes the point very nicely that if there is a group that is dis-advantaged, then there is a group that is advantaged. If the is a group that is under-privileged, then there is a group that is . . . (wait for it . . .. yes) privileged! Finding different ways to “fight poverty”, eliminate health disparities, or eradicate inequities in the criminal system without doing anything about privilege, is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Focusing all our efforts on “improving the lot of the underprivileged” without working to eliminate “privilege” is the very definition of insanity.

Makes sense to me.

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Study: Little Progress for African-American Men on Racial Equality Since 1970

TIME

In recent years, the U.S. has celebrated the 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act and a number of other landmark accomplishments considered pivotal in making the U.S. a better place for African Americans.

But despite a deep reverence for those accomplishments, a new study suggests that African-American men today face such high levels of unemployment and incarceration that they are in little better position when compared with white men than a half-century ago.

The working paper, by University of Chicago researchers Derek Neal and Armin Rick, is based on preliminary findings and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

“The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a…

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The Washington Post Talks with NHA Director Curtis Watkins About “Safe Passage” Walks

Getting past the hype – Black men are not “naughty by nature”

A Century of Big Ideas

On September 15, 2011, The Washington Post interviewed the Director of Phelps Stokes‘ National Homecomers Academy Program, Curtis A. Watkins about  the great work of NHA’s Community Change Agents as they participate in morning patrols aimed at giving kids ‘Safe Passage’ to school in the DC area.

The article mentions that four times a week, Curtis Watkins and a group of National Homecomers also known as NHA Community Change agents walk the streets of Marshall Heights and Lincoln Heights in Ward 7, greeting students and making sure that the students arrive to their designated school safely.

Read the recent Washington Post article “In Ward 7, Men’s Morning Patrols Aimed at Giving Kids ‘Safe Passage’ to School” to find out more about the interview with Director of the National Homecomers Academy, Curtis A. Watkins. For the latest information about the National Homecomers Academy, visit www.phelpsstokes.org/About_NHA or contact…

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Why millennials are leaving the church

Rachel Held Evans says people are leaving the church “because we don’t find Jesus there.”

CNN Belief Blog

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN) At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

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Convicted by Our Common Humanity

From Wesley Urban Ministry Fellow, Lindy Bunch

Episcopal Commons

by Lindy Bunch

Matthew 18:21–35 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=228329319)

This past spring, I had the opportunity to travel with my fellow seminarians studying restorative justice to Riverbend High Security Penitentiary in Tennessee. Several educators and clergy from the Nashville area have been working at this prison for nearly 15 years alongside “insiders” (as the inmates are called) in order to build a group within the prison. This group, consisting of approximately 15 insiders, has been meeting regularly for years, and is self-directed and self-determining. In these meetings, they discuss books, theology, education, and their lives. They are a community. And this community invited us into their world, to exchange and learn from one another.

As I stood outside the prison, I girded myself for the unknown that awaited me. In some ways, this was my greatest fear. As a woman, I have typically felt uncomfortable around large groups of men, not…

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My Name Is Nehemiah

My name is Nehemiah and I have heard the plight of my people I am a Metro-Nashville government custodial worker:

During the month of Chislev [a] in the twentieth year that Artaxerxes [b] ruled Persia, I was in his fortress city of Susa, [c] 2when my brother Hanani came with some men from Judah. So I asked them about the Jews who had escaped [d] from being captives in Babylonia. I also asked them about the city of Jerusalem. (Neh. 1:1-3, CEV)During the month of March in the third year that Karl Dean ruled Nashville, I was in City Hall and some of my colleagues came from the schools in the district. So I asked them about those who had escaped from being laid off, the ones who have worked without a pay increase for the last four years, who have had to deal with increases in electricity, gas, food, and housing prices without a single increase or adjustment in pay.

 3They told me, ” Those captives who have come back are having all kinds of troubles. They are terribly disgraced, Jerusalem’s walls are broken down, and its gates have been burned.”(Neh. 1:3, CEV)They told me, “The custodial workers who have stayed are having all kinds of troubles. The Director of Schools has written them out of the budget, and the school board has approved that budget to go before the Mayor and the council. The custodians have no protection from losing their benefits, getting lower pay, or even losing their jobs altogether.”

4When I heard this, I sat down and cried. . . . and I prayed: 5LORD God of heaven . . . please have mercy on me and answer the prayer that I make day and night for these people of Israel . . . 10Our LORD, I am praying for your servants–those you rescued by your great strength and mighty power. 11Please answer my prayer and the prayer of your other servants who gladly honor your name. When I serve the king his wine today, make him pleased with me and have him do what I ask. (Neh. 1:4-5)When I heard this, I sat down and cried and I prayed: “Lord God of heaven, please hear my prayer for these custodial workers, who are considered the least. As I go about my duties for the Metro-Government let the Mayor appreciate, and value the work of custodians, and have him do what we ask.

7Then I asked, ” Your Majesty, would you be willing to give me letters to the governors of the provinces west of the Euphrates River, so that I can travel safely to Judah?  “8I will need timber to rebuild the gates of the fortress near the temple and more timber to construct the city wall and to build a place for me to live. And so, I would appreciate a letter to Asaph, who is in charge of the royal forest.” God was good to me, and the king did everything I asked. (Neh 2:8, CEV)So we ask, “Mr. Mayor, would you be willing to give direction to the School Board so that the jobs and welfare of the custodial workers will make it safely through this budget process? The schools will need enough appropriation to make this a reality, so we would appreciate that you would make this plain in the budget that you send to the council for their approval.

Nehemiah was willing to get out of his comfort zone, stand up, and make a determination that, regardless of personal consequences, he was not just going to let things go on without speaking up, and speaking out. The question for those of us who preach “good news to the poor” is, “Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone? Can you speak up, and speak out without regard to personal consequences?

Will you be a Nehemiah?”

Make A Difference . . . For Life ! ! !