Friday, December 30, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Bobby lived in front of a church on the streets for 7 years. Here is his Christmas message:
Friday, December 23, 2011
Today's episode is a beautifully compassionate look at Schizophrenia by Sr. Carmen Barsody of the Faithful Fools.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Faith = Action is a series of videos where individuals and groups talk about how their faith compels them to respond to poverty and hunger issues. Hopefully the videos will encourage you to put your faith into action or to speak out about the great work you already do. Here is Mikey's response. Notice that getting involved volunteering as a child made him more willing to act on his faith as an adult.
3 Lenses on Mental Health is a series about common mental health issues that are found in increased number among those living In poverty or who experience hunger. The videos will feature the views of psychologists, pastors and individuals who are homeless or formerly homeless speaking about how their condition made it difficult to get off the streets. The goal of this project is to increase awareness and is not intended to diagnose or inform you how to treat mental health issues. Please consult credentialed professional support for that. For emergencies, call 911.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
As I’ve mentioned in this space, several weeks ago I went to the National Gathering of clergy hosted by PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) in mid-November. I’ve been meaning to report back to you all on it ever since.
SF CARE sent me so I could connect with other clergy doing advocacy, learn what PICO is up to these days, and learn some more about community organizing since I’m pretty new to that part of this job.
A number of old friends were there and I got to connect with a lot of new people among the over 500 (mostly) clergy who were there. They had some great workshops on community organizing and I’m eager to put what I learned into practice in the new year. We attended a local action en mass (along with about 1500 other folks organized by the local PICO affiliate) to ask the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, to cap the number of beds on a prison that is planned to be finished in 2014 and to push the Recovery School District superintendent, John White, to bring better options for the community to choose from to run the Phillis Wheatley School when it re-opens as a charter school. PICO had invited Eric Holder to the event, but he didn’t come. One of his Assistant Attorneys Generals did send a video and promised to arrange a face to face meeting with Mr. Holder and the PICO leadership at a later date. I took this as a good sign that PICO is starting to have some national pull.
I also took the chance to put on a collar and walk the French Quarter Night Ministry style from about 11p.m. until about 1a.m. the last night we were there. It was a lot like walking the Mission here at home. I had a couple of great conversations, bought food for one person, got to meet some of the Occupy New Orleans folks and it was my only chance to get up close to the Mississippi.
Probably the most important thing to tell you about, though, is PICO’s national agenda for next year. Normally, PICO works through local affiliate organizations on local issues, but they have set a bold national agenda for 2012. The overall theme was ‘Land of Opportunity’ and the goals are focused around creating better opportunities for everyone. The initiatives PICO is putting forth are reform of the incarceration, education and healthcare systems; a push to move money out of irresponsible and predatory banks; and initiatives to reduce community violence. The lens used to look at and discuss these topics was racism (yes, I know we all wish we were done with that topic, but there is a lot of hard evidence that says we are not). The details of how they plan to accomplish this are still coming out. Many PICO federations (regional groups of local affiliates) made some pretty bold commitments to further these goals. I am glad to see these issues being addressed by a national organization with the good track record PICO has.
Our local PICO affiliate is the San Francisco Organizing Project. They are working on immigrant issues as well as economic justice issues and a safe streets initiative. To learn about what they’re up to and see how you can get involved, check out http://www.sfop.org/. If you want to learn more about PICO at the national level, you can at http://www.piconetwork.org/
Thursday, December 1, 2011
“The Earth is but ONE country and the humankind its citizens” – From Pancho Ramos Stierle’s Facebook page.
Two weeks ago our nation’s broken immigration policies became very personal when my friend Pancho was facing deportation. Suddenly I wasn’t just signing a petition here and there as I have done in the past, but blogging and emailing people and trying to drum up all the support I could for him. Fortunately Pancho didn’t have only me to rely on. He had a great team of friends who hit the ground running and had a campaign going to keep him out of ICE custody before I saw the first email about his arrest; protests, petitions, a letter writing campaign all got up and running very quickly. In short order Pancho was released on his own recognizance until his court date and I’m grateful and glad.
I want to turn our attention to all the immigrants who don’t have that well connected base of support, don’t have the story that plays well to a crowd or a judge. There were a lot of other people in that same ICE prison without the same network Pancho has, and they are still there, or they have been deported.
We all know we can’t all go to protests, sign petitions, or launch a letter writing campaign for every single one of them individually. We don’t even know their names. And, lets face it, most of us don’t get all that worked up if it’s not someone we know, or some one whose story we know. It’s human nature to draw our circles small. It keeps us feeling sane. But it doesn’t help solve big problems like the way we handle immigration in this country. In our globalized world only, drawing our circles wide will help us. It’s the only way for us to actually be sane.
And I do mean all of us, not just those who are uprooted from their homes here in the states. A recent New York Times editorial about the results of the new immigration law in Alabama noted:
Farmers can tally the cost of crops left to rot as workers flee. Governments can calculate the loss of revenues when taxpayers flee. It’s harder to measure the price of a ruined business reputation or the value of investments lost or productivity lost as Alabamians stand in line for hours to prove their citizenship in any transaction with the government. Or what the state will ultimately spend fighting off an onslaught of lawsuits, or training and deploying police officers in the widening immigrant dragnet, or paying the cost of diverting scarce resources away from fighting real crimes.
Keeping the large circle in our heads helps our own small circle, too. Pancho is not wrong when he says that the Earth is but one country and we are all it’s citizens. Even though we don’t know all the stories, every person in ICE custody has a story just as compelling as Pancho’s. Even though we do not know and love them personally, they have friends and family who do. And even if a person’s story about one bad decision after another and even if they have no one who cares, they are still, as Pancho says, citizens of the world. The Christian side of my practice claims them all as my family. The Buddhist side of my practice tells me there is no separation between they and I. But whatever your faith tells you, they are your fellow citizens.
So what can you do about it?
To sign petitions to help individuals and regarding legislation, you can go to http://www.change.org and search ‘immigration’ (Be sure to read each one carefully, some are in favor of irrational immigration policies)
And if you want to write your representatives, you can go to http://www.govtrack.us and search on immigration to see what bills are pending at the national level. For California, you can get similar information at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html if you search immigration.
And, of course, you can educate yourself. A few resources (shamelessly cribbed from No Longer Strangers: The Practice of Radical Hospitality by Wendy Taylor and Margaret Kimball Cross - http://www.no-longer-strangers.org/):
Just Hospitality: God’s Welcome in a World of Difference Letty Russell, John Knox Press 2009
If you haven't already, check out her post and if it sounds like a great way to start your Christmas, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or a call at 415-673-3572 to sign up or learn more.