Archive for August, 2013

The State of the Union & Labor: Child Poverty, Exploitation and Access to Education

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

(part 3 of 4)

Child Labor (Vintage, 1920s)

My parents were products of growing up during the depression.  My mother was the only child of a school teacher and architect (on the side) and managed to go to a two year trade school beyond high school.  My father was the youngest of four boys whose father was the poultry king of southern New Jersey until he lost everything during the depression.  My father grew up as part of a tenement farming family and had several paper routes and odd jobs to help his family.  His oldest brother had a mental breakdown as a result of the family's losses and struggles. 

Somehow, my dad and his two other brothers managed to get through high school and, as a result of WWII, the Korean conflict, labor unions and the GI bill, managed to work themselves into the middle class.  My childhood was marked by an ingrained understanding that poverty and hunger was not going to be an option and education combined with hard work was the key to opening the doors of opportunity and success.  As my dad liked to say: "when I die, I'm leaving you the same thing my father left me… the whole wide world to work in."  His greatest regret in life was "never having the chance to go to college."  I was the youngest of four children and the first to graduate from a four year college.  My children were never presented with an option that education ends after high school.  Pursuing a higher education (post high school degree) was expected.

I look at what kind of opportunities and successes are waiting for those who are growing up today and I become angry!  I'm angered by the road blocks that are placed in the way of our children.  The road blocks of poverty, hunger, inadequate and unequal access to education and the growing self-centeredness of the "me and mine" culture that is eroding our sense of community.  I don't have a problem with magnet and charter schools as long as they are a part of the public school system.  School vouchers (however) are the height of immoral selfishness when they can be used by the privileged to help send their children to private schools at the cost of alleviating their responsibility to help make sure the children of their neighbors and community have access to a good education.  The school privatization legislation being put forth by the for profit school industry through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), in my estimation, is tantamount to corporate and politically sanctioned child abuse.

Children (at home and abroad) are being exposed to a greater risk of poverty, food insecurity, exploitation and an inadequate education as a result of recent US public policies and business practices.  Here’s how:

  1. Child Poverty:  
    According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (Columbia University) – More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children (1 in 5) – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $23,550 a year for a family of four.  Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 45% of children live in low-income families.

    Spending data released by the Administration for Children and Families shows that state spending of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and related state maintenance of effort (MOE) funds declined again in federal fiscal year 2012.  States reported spending or transferring to related programs a total of $31.36 billion, down nearly $2 billion from fiscal year 2011.
     

  2. Food Insecurity: 
    With the separating out of Article IV funding for feeding programs from farm subsidies in the Farm Bill, programs supporting prenatal and childhood food security through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are now at risk (like the WIC – Women and Infant Care Program, School Breakfast Program, Fresh Fruits  Lunch Program, Special Milk Program, Summer food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and National School Lunch Program).  Beyond children this also effects programs that support Food Pantries, Seniors, Native Americans and other hunger fighting agencies and efforts.
     
  3. Exporting Child Exploitation to Import Cheap Goods: 
    Last year it was Nestle and their cocoa suppliers in Côte d'Ivoire.  This year it’s Walmart and their supposed “labor rights certified” shrimp suppliers in Thailand.  The reality is that corporate America has to do a better job of policing their suppliers and the labor practices they engage in.  According to the Stop Child Labor Coalition, “An annual study (2012) by risk analysis firm Maplecroft has revealed that 76 countries now pose ‘extreme’ child labor complicity risks for companies operating worldwide, due to worsening global security and the economic downturn. This constitutes an increase of more than 10% from last year’s total of 68 ‘extreme risk’ countries.”
     
  4. Inadequate Education for our Children:
    After a 5.27 percent reduction in the $8 billion budget for Head start and Early Head Start programs because of the actions of Congress this March by enacting the sequester, 57,000 children will be cut from Head Start programs.

    Now that colleges are finally required to report graduation rates and States are using more accurate measures for reporting high school graduation rates, we are staring to understand some of the good and bad trends that have developed.  In terms of High School Graduation rates, the past decade has seen us grow to a better than 80% graduation rate over all. That’s almost twice what it was 40 to 50 years ago.  However, statistics reveal a less promising picture based on racial disparities in graduation rates. If you combine that with the impact of growing up in low income neighborhoods, than it’s no wonder that college graduation rates based on race, gender and economic history  produce results that point out our nation's glaring inequalities in education.

    States complain about the increasing costs of education.  However the data doesn’t support their claims.  The American Council on Education tells us; “Based on the trends since 1980, average state fiscal support for higher education will reach zero by 2059.”  Here’s another statistic to consider:  “It costs $34,135 per year to house an average prisoner” according to The Real Cost of Prisons Project, yet according to the National Census Bureau the national average per pupil expenditure (PPE) amounts for public elementary-secondary school systems for fiscal year 2011 was $10,560 (down $40/student from the previous year).  This is either a penny-wise, pound foolish approach to building a better society, or there's just more money in it for those who run private prisons than those who are dedicated to teaching our children well.

    I haven’t even gone into depth about studies about funding inequity that show that more affluent communities and public school systems get better access to equipment and funding than do schools in poorer communities and districts.

I’m not trying to paint an impossibly bleak picture for us, but help us to realize how far we are sinking into the depths of greed and selfishness at the expense of our children, tomorrow’s workers, voters and caretakers of society.

The great news is that we are not sunk yet!  High school graduation rates are at a 30 year high, even though our teachers and their unions are under constant criticism and attack.  Now we just need to get behind our educators and make sure that they have the resources and community support to do their job effectively and with our heartfelt gratitude.

I was inspired last week at the commemoration events for the March on Washington on Saturday, August 24th.  A young (9 year old) activist for education, Asean Johnson spoke about his hopes and dreams for what public education can and should be for all students, regardless of race, gender and economic means.  Asean has fought against school closings and overcrowded classrooms and when he discovered that his own school didn’t have the same access to technology and resources that more affluent schools had, he had the courage to publically ask why.  Students and children are mobilizing and trying to wake the rest of us up to what is going on in at risk neighborhoods and communities across this country.  They get it, why can’t we adults?  Have we become that callous and selfish?  Can we possibly turn things around so that the whole wide world we leave to our children to work in is one filled with possibilities and hope?  I think we can.  I think it’s not too late, yet, but we have to get it together soon or it just may become an almost impossible task.  I hope Asean and others will help to show us the way, but more importantly, I hope we will listen as they try!

I want to end with this quote: “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. …When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 4/4/1967

 

Next and finally, I want to focus on Labor: Organized and Mobilized for a Better Tomorrow.

________________________________________________________________

Rev. Steve Clunn serves as the Coalition Coordinator for the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Clergy in the Upper New York Annual Conference, Steve's work at MFSA focuses on coordinating United Methodist caucus groups in their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the Church.

The State of the Union & Labor: Race and Gender

Monday, August 26th, 2013

(part 2 of 4)

Steve Visits the 2nd March on Washington

I must confess: as a middle-aged, white man I feel woefully inadequate writing on the subject of work/employment and how they are impacted by race and gender.  I’m questioning why I feel so compelled to write about race and gender as one blog rather than two.  What right do I have to think that I have something meaningful to offer? 

In the midst of my questioning, Alan Van Capelle, former executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda (NY) came to mind. Speaking back in 2005 about the importance of working with straight allies and straight clergy, he said, “If it’s just LGBT people talking and organizing, then we lose.”  I also think of my seminary classes with Dr. Delores Williams.  She introduced me to “Womanist Theology” and got me looking down the road of intersectional justice issues.  I remembered discovering how my people, those raised with a White-Oriented Male-Dominated Approach to Theology (the WOMDATs as I called us back then) had attempted to divide and conquer marginalized people to in a seeming attempt slow the progress of justice movements and limit the gains their social achievements.  Dr. Williams introduced me to thinkers like Paula Giddings (through When and Where I Enter – I highly recommend), Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; and, Angela Davis’s Women, Race and Class

I need to write on the topic of Labor, Race and Gender simply because we have reached a point in the movement for human dignity and rights that depends on none of us being silent or separated from one another, neither because of our privileges and/or marginalization. Or as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly put it, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Some seem to think that we are living in a post-civil rights or post-racism era but I believe they are far from informed.  While we have made significant strides in some areas over the past 150+ years, all anyone has to do is keep up with the current trends in voting rights suppression laws, unemployment statistics, racial profiling, mass incarceration issues and reports from groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (monitoring hate groups) to know we are not past racism and institutionalized prejudice.  In fact, in June of 2005, the American Sociological Association (ASA) published a series on this very matter, entitled: “Race, Ethnicity, and the American Labor Market: What’s at Work?”  Some of their conclusions were quite telling about how deeply our institutional racism and sexism may run  and how the changes in work climate and the type of economy we are developing may be making institutionalized workplace bias even more covert and subjective than ever –

1)       “Occupational data are another indicator of racial and ethnic labor market disparities. One-third of white men and nearly one-half of Asian men are employed in managerial, professional, and related occupations, compared with one-fifth of African American men and one-seventh of Hispanic men. Conversely, more than one-quarter of both African American and Hispanic men hold jobs in production, transportation, and material moving occupations, compared with less than one-fifth of white men and less than one-seventh of Asian men. A disproportionately high percentage of African American and Hispanic women, compared with white and Asian women, are employed in service occupations such as food preparation, cleaning, and personal care. These occupations are often in work environments characterized by poor pay, few benefits, and little career mobility.” This is often referred to in this article as “occupational segregation.”

2)       “According to sociological research, occupational segregation helps explain persistent wage gaps between whites and both African Americans and Hispanics, especially for women.”  If you don’t think that pay equality and gender is still an issue, please read the latest case dealing with pay equality (and don’t miss tall the recent cases in the box on the right) that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEO) is fighting.

3)       “Sociological research documents a wide range of processes through which employers sort and rank workers, and workers jockey for positions in the labor market. For employers, the result is a ‘job queue,’ a ranking of workers from perceived best to perceived worst… In today’s service-based economy, employers often emphasize a preference for ‘soft skills’ (an array of employee characteristics that are subjectively evaluated by employers. They include how individuals look and dress and their manner of speaking; whether they are perceived to be team players; perceived motivation, cheerfulness, and interpersonal skills; and perceived ability to represent the organization), creating potential for bias in workplace decisions.” 

Last Friday, while in the midst of the 50th Anniversary events of the March on Washington, I attended a “town hall meeting” on race and poverty sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.  One speaker in particular stood out for me: Darnell L. Moore.  He quoted statistics from memory: “a poverty rate in the US of 15%, meaning 46.2 million people (or 1 in 7) live in poverty. Of those, 20.4% are now living in what is being termed “deep poverty”.  More than one-fourth of all Black people are unemployed or underemployed.  60% of Black women who are elderly are living in poverty.  Of the 27.6% of Black people who are poor, there are 5 million more Black women than men who are in poverty” (remember wage inequality) “and if you are Black and Gay or Lesbian, you run an even higher risk of being in poverty.  Keep in mind that 40% of all homeless individuals now are LGBT youth… The problem is that we are facing multi-dimensional, intersectional issues and trying to deal with them with a monolithic solution.”  Moore then challenged us, his audience, to grow our work together and not let the issues of human rights and dignity to be separated out.  “It’s not just about asking, ‘whose feet are situated on our necks?’  It’s also about asking, ‘whose necks are your feet situated on?’”  In a Huffington Post blog Moore has said, “single-variable politics and movement work solely focused on one issue will always result in limited gains.”

The playing field has changed, but it needs to be completely transformed.  No longer can we waste time and energy fighting over which disenfranchised group gets to get a piece of the WOMDAT pie first.  Now, it’s about all of us together, figuring out what kind of new economic, inclusive, equal opportunity pie we all going to make instead! Darnell Moore gave me hope on Friday! 

On Saturday, as I watched different groups commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, I had even greater hope!  That hope came from the labor movement, who like 1963, showed up in force.  It came from women and people of all different hues taking center stage like never before to advocate for the rights of all.  It came from a list of problems that seem almost overwhelming at times, but when you see all the people who are working and willing to see their issue and your issue as inter-dependant, you begin to realize this can really happen!  I also found hope in an amazingly articulate, courageous and limitless 9 year old named Asean Johnson. 

I’ll share more about Asean’s dream in the next blog on children and how their exploitation, access to food security and affordable quality education are crucial for the future of our society.

________________________________________________________________

Rev. Steve Clunn serves as the Coalition Coordinator for the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Clergy in the Upper New York Annual Conference, Steve's work at MFSA focuses on coordinating United Methodist caucus groups in their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the Church.

The Time is Still Now: the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

There Will Never Be Anything Like The 1963 March on Washington, Again!

I have been "Thinking Out Loud" about why this 50th anniversary time of the March on Washington is so important for me and, I believe, for all of us. One reason: I realize at my age there will never be another time for me when there is such a convergence and acknowledgment of the Black racial journey and its relationship to many of  the tribulations and triumphs of the USA.  We have a way of "paying attention" to significant chronological anniversaries. There will never be another 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which did so much to transform the practice, culture and history of us all. And as well, there will never be another 50th anniversary of what Chris Matthews of MSNBC says was the second most important speech in the nation's history: Martin Luther King's, "I Have A Dream", speech. (I believe Matthews said Abraham Lincoln's 2nd inaugural speech was the first).

Another reason; The role of religion, faith, spirituality (all, or your choice) in the re-shaping and transformation of life in the USA was made manifest by the March on Washington; it is and will be deeply rooted in history. Religion and the texts of religion have been responsible too many times, "used" to exclude rather than include, render some immoral by those who who have not acknowledged their own immorality, and both maintain and sustain the inequities and inequalities of the status quo. In that "Great getting up morning" (The Spiritual), regardless of how your faith views life/existence beyond this life/existence, religion, and we who claim to be as followers of a faith, in some way will be challenged to respond to the question; "Why have I/we worshiped our Holy Script more than worshiping the God who inspired that Script?" And, for those of us who have followed Jesus, we must answer, "Why have I/we used him to justify our prejudices, rather than allowing his life, mission, and ministry to liberate us from them?"

The 1963 March on Washington was like a Holy Pilgrimage, where people of a diversity of faiths and no faith persuasions gathered to celebrate each other, the potential that was ours, and to "Dream" with Martin Luther King about that — that which was not yet, but could be if we had the will and courage to make it, "For Real". The 1963 March on Washington was one of the most significant Interfaith gatherings the nation and world have ever known. What has taken place since then validates its significance.

A final reason: the USA has been able to live and lead the world in believing that we are "much better than the rest of the world". We deplore the current violence in the middle east, while forgetting the violence and the deaths that were the result of our Civil War. Some demean Islam because Muslims are fighting Muslims in the middle east. Were not Christians fighting Christians in the Civil War? We are a nation of contradictions. Martin Luther King at the March on Washington, and the Civil Rights Movement in so many ways, helped the USA acknowledge the gap between our national creeds and our national deeds.

The March on Washington "set the table" as it made visible for the nation to see what the banquet table of the USA ought look like and be. It is time for all of us to sit at that Banquet Table.

"We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right"
                                                            –
Martin Luther King, Jr.

"There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now."
                                             -
James Baldwin

(Quotations are from African American Quotations, Richard Newman, Editor, 2000)

______________________________________________________________

Rev. Gild CaldwellRev. Gill Caldwell is retired United Methodist clergy living in Asbury Park, NJ. He is former Associate General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race and one of the founders of Black Methodists for Church Renewal.  As a long-time MFSA supporter, Gil's ministry of writing challenges the United Methodist Church to be the best it can be.

The State of the Union & Labor: Setting the Stage

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

(part 1 of 4)

Methodists stand with hospital laborers, 1974

In 1908, when the Methodist Episcopal Church passed the Methodist Federation for Social Service’s (MFSS is now known as the Methodist Federation for Social Action) proposed legislation to adopt its first Social Creed, labor was the big issue of the day.  Child labor abuses, long hours, poor pay, non-existent safety standards, company stores, and a lack of time for family and community involvement were just some of the struggles facing workers.  This dynamic created a lack of opportunity and mobility, access and time for education, financial advancement and expendable resources, all leading to class divisions and a way of life in the United States of America that was very volatile and becoming increasingly unbearable.  Also realize that in 1908, no one on the state and federal levels was even paying attention to how much more difficult the situation was for non-whites and immigrant communities. 

While indentured servitude was no longer the open practice of business owners in the US, the circumstances and labor laws of the day created a system that mirrored indentured servitude ─ much like Jim Crow laws were set in place to maintain African American servitude in the days after the Emancipation Proclamation. As the exclusive language we used in the creed will bear out, 1908 was an era when there was also little to no attention being shown toward gender equality and protections in the work place.

It was in this atmosphere that MFSS brought forward the following Social Creed (links are to current United Methodist Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions positions on these same issues)…

The Methodist Episcopal Church stands:

For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.
For the principles of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions (today, known as collective
bargaining).
For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, injuries and mortality.
For the abolition of child labor.
For such regulation of the conditions of labor for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.

For the suppression of the "sweating system."
For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practical point, with work for all; and for that degree of leisure for all which is the condition of the highest human life.

For a release for [from] employment one day in seven.
For a living wage in every industry.

For the highest wage that each industry can afford, and for the most equitable division of the products of
industry that can ultimately be devised.
For the recognition of the Golden Rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.

To the toilers of America and to those who by organized effort are seeking to lift the crushing burdens of the poor, and to reduce the hardships and uphold the dignity of labor, this Council sends the greeting of human brotherhood and the pledge of sympathy and of help in a cause which belongs to all who follow Christ.


So with 105 years of commitment behind us, how are we United Methodists doing at impacting and influencing the social holiness around issues labor in the United States of America?

Let's begin by confessing that business and economics are impacted by world-wide issues, are very complex (multi-facetted), and are nationally interdependent.  However, as one of the wealthiest, most productive and economically influential nations in the world, let’s suffice it to say that this is an area upon which we United Methodists should be having some impact.  Also, let’s be clear that this first Social Creed was an endorsement of the early beginnings of the labor movement and the formation of labor unions “who by organized effort are seeking to lift the crushing burdens of the poor, and to reduce the hardships and uphold the dignity of labor.

This series of articles is an attempt to take a comprehensive look at labor issues that are being faced in the United States of America and the intersectionality of those issues with other pressing issues around us.  Finally, if we still truly stand for “the recognition of the Golden Rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills” – then what we hope for ourselves in terms of labor, will be the ideals and hopes we have for our sisters and brothers around the world!

 

Let’s start by looking at Labor, Race and Gender (part 2 of 4).

________________________________________________________________

Rev. Steve Clunn serves as the Coalition Coordinator for the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Clergy in the Upper New York Annual Conference, Steve's work at MFSA focuses on coordinating United Methodist caucus groups in their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the Church.

Posted in Blog | 1 Comment »

A Different Central Conference: Global Church, Regional Concerns

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Connecting Cross-and-flameIn my previous article I described what neocolonialism is and how it could impact relationships among United Methodists across countries and within its current global structure.  I raised the point that the current structure may actually be fostering elitism and the patronage system in certain Central Conferences, particularly in the selection of delegates to the General Conference and membership to the boards of the church’s general agencies.  Even worse is when the episcopacy is sought for reasons other than spiritual, given the fact that, compared with local incomes, the salary and perks of a bishop are enormous.  The episcopacy in certain Central Conferences, such as those in the Philippines and Africa, then mirrors the elitist structure of the society in which such Central Conferences are located.  These are of course genuine concerns that are reflected in the feedback gathered and appear in the 2012 report by the Study Committee on the World Wide Nature of the Church. 

The situation in Europe, which I recently visited, offers a sharp contrast to the description above.  The Central Conferences in Europe cover countries whose standards of living are way above those of the Philippines and most of Africa.  Indeed, all countries of the European Union have open borders with the United States and Canada.  Their citizens can cross each others' borders without visas as long as they’re just visiting.  The same is not the case with the Philippines and Africa.  Only a favored few from those countries can get a tourist/visitors visa to the so-called developed part of the world. 

Developed countries are particularly strict with people from ‘developing’ ones precisely because of the great differences not so much in the culture as in standard of living and income.  People from the latter will of course look for opportunities to earn more so that they can provide for a better future for their families.  Naturally they go to where income levels are high, to the rich countries.  It follows that the wealthy people in the poor countries are the ones that can easily get visas to the rich countries.   For those with fewer resources the chances are less, even for those with well-established sponsors. 

For this reason it is therefore difficult to ensure, for instance, that Annual Conferences from outside the US are well-represented in the General Conference.   Often they are forced to elect alternates on the basis of their already having multiple-entry visas.   This is just one manifestation of the difficulties some Central Conferences face under the current structure.

The similarities in the contexts of the US and Europe, particularly economic and social standards, correspondingly also show little or nothing of the neocolonial type of relations that obtain in the Philippines and Africa.  The effects of the UMC structure in the European Central Conferences hardly bear any resemblance to those in the Philippines and Africa.

 My conversation with Bishop Rosemarie confirms what I and many of us already know.  There is hardly any intensity in running for the episcopacy, say, in the German Central Conference, definitely not of the type I know in the Philippines.  The salary of the bishop in Germany is not that high compared with the pastors.  This is because, among other things, of the similar levels of income for such positions in the United States and Germany.   Since most people in the US and Germany can generally afford to travel to other countries at their own expense, one can discount the same intensity in seeking to become a delegate to the General Conference. 

The issues European United Methodists face in regard to their relationship with the global church are different.  Their delegates to the General Conference are few compared with the total number of delegates.  With most of the issues debated and voted on in the General Conference mainly concern the church in the US there’s a tendency among European delegates to be passive and indifferent.  There’s a feeling that they are an insignificant part of the whole process. 

On the whole there’s also the issue of cultural differences so that what is considered a central problem in one Central Conference/country may not be considered less so in another. 

There is nothing wrong with having a global structure per se.  Our concern is in the nature of this structure.  For instance, does the structure effectively address the unequal statuses of its constituents?  Does it mitigate or reinforce neocolonial relationships?  Or instead, does it provide enough interaction, partnership and fellowship but allowing calls for changes within the US and the Central Conferences to be settled entirely within their own respective levels? 
_______________________________________________________________

 

Haniel R. Garibay, Haniel is a home missioner and Cross Culture Common Witness Coordinator for MFSA. Born and raised in the Philippines, Haniel earned a BA from Philippine Christian University and an MA in international development from the University of Sussex, UK. His other involvements in the church include memberships in the boards of the Virginia Conference Board of Church and Society, the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists (NAFAUM), and the General Board of Church and Society.

MFSA Sponsors Events Surrounding the 50th Anniversary of March on Washington for Jobs, Justice, and Freedom

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – August 8, 2013 – The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) announces opportunities for commemoration, celebration, and education during events surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs, Justice, and Freedom.

On August 28, 1963, the Historic March on Washington, organized by labor, civil rights, and religious organizations, was the largest rally for human rights in the history of the United States. The march commanded national attention and is credited with changing the tide of public opinion, leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Music and speeches filled the air, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial inspired the marchers.

This August there will be two commemoration marches. The first will be on Saturday, August 24 on the National Mall. Information about this gathering can be found at www.officialmlkdream50.com. Another will take place on Wednesday, August 28, with a focus on jobs and justice. More information about Wednesday’s march can be found at www.50thanniversarymarchonwashington.com. MFSA’s office at 212 East Capitol Street, NE in Washington, DC will be open both days from 7am-4pm to provide hospitality to those participating in the marches. Water, restrooms, and a bag drop will be available.

On Tuesday, August 27, MFSA is sponsoring two events focused on education and action. At 4pm at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, a Teach-In will be held on the topic “A Culture of Suspicion: The Criminalization of Race in America.” The final panel is still in formation, but will include Rev. Gil Caldwell and Charles Thornton. Rev. Caldwell is retired United Methodist clergy. He was a member of the Massachusetts Unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a founding member of Black Methodists for Church Renewal. Mr. Thornton serves as the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Returning Citizens Affairs for the District of Columbia.

At 7pm, MFSA is sponsoring a worship service at Historic Asbury United Methodist Church in downtown DC. InProcess, an African American women’s acapella quintet from the Washington, DC area, will provide music. The Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey, Associate Dean of Community Life and Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Theology, will be the guest preacher. Dr. Lightsey is ordained in The United Methodist Church, and serves as co-chair of the Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Group of the American Academy of Religion and as a member of the Board of Directors for the Reconciling Ministries Network.

"Having grown up in the South during the 1960s, I remember the great appreciation my parents had for Dr. King, and their great saddness at his assassination,” said Dr. Lightsey. “These many years later, I am happy to be able to participate in these events to commemorate the March on Washington and believe our time together will encourage and inspire the continued work of social justice activism."

“This is a very exciting opportunity for people of faith, especially United Methodists, to come together, learn, and take action. The issues surrounding the March of 50 years ago are still prevalent today: racism, white privilege, access to good jobs and fair wages, and voting rights,” said Chett Pritchett, MFSA’s interim executive director. “We still have work to do to bring about God’s vision of a reconciled world.”

Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both Church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice within The United Methodist Church.

 

###

National Office:212 East Capitol St., NE,Washington, DC 20003 * tel: 202.546.8806 *email: mfsa@mfsaweb.org