Tag Archive for advocacy

Responding to Ferguson, Michael Brown’s death

I’ve been following the news coverage about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson fairly closely.  It continues a disturbing pattern of systemic inequality against minorities in America:

  •   police brutality, differential enforcement and sentencing
  •   economic injustice in hiring and advancement, as well as in access to credit
  •   disparity in the educational resources in communities of color
  •   environmental injustice in the siting of polluting industries

These big picture issues recurred in the more personal stories of racism and exclusion I’d heard from people of color in my own church community during conversations in response to a call for a Sacred Conversation on Race by our denomination (United Church of Christ) in the wake of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

As I wrestle with the question of how I can personally improve the situation, I think about three steps that I encourage others to consider as well:

  1. Raise my personal consciousness of the situation.  Pay attention to the news, read books like The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and listen to the stories of people of other races.
  2. Cultivate friendships that cross not only race boundaries but economic ones as well.
  3. Speak out against injustice.  Quite frankly, this still scares me.  I find it easier to speak out by writing a check than I do by saying something in person or email.  So, if Citizens United establishes contributions as voice, then my voice will not be silent.  Here are organizations that I believe are prodding or supporting much-needed change:

I’m still in the early stages of this new awareness, and I have yet to take all of my own advice, but I’d welcome additional suggestions for organizations or other ideas you have on making a difference.

Mission 1: Letter Writing Campaign

A lot of the volunteer work that I do is coordinated through my church, First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, which is a church in the United Church of Christ (UCC) denomination.  This year, the UCC is launching an initiative called “Mission 1,” covering the 11 day period from 11/1/11 – 11/11/11.

One of the 3 aspects of it is a letter writing campaign, augmenting Bread for the World with their 2011 Offering of Letters.  Their focus is on improving the effectiveness of US foreign aid, through accountability and transparency, streamlining redundant, overlapping aid agencies, and giving local people what they want.

For the Mission 1 campaign, we’re hoping to send 111 letters from our church.  To participate:

  1. Learn about the issue.
    1. Read a two-pager of facts about poverty and hunger (and USAID)
    2. Watch the overview of the campaign, including stories from Haiti and Liberia  (YouTube Video 7:51)
  2. Compose your thoughts.
    1. Start from a sample letter from Bread for the World (or download the Microsoft .doc version)
    2. Or, if you want to be more free-form (and effective) say it in your own words.  Be sure to include your name and address at the bottom of the letter (so your representative knows that you are in his or her district).
  3. Send the letter.
    [UPDATE:  The UCC has set up a nice page which lets you submit a single form, and figures out from your zip code which members of Congress should receive it.  So you can send all 4 (2 Senators, 1 Representative, Pres. Obama) with a single form submission.]
    1. Via the legislator’s web contact form:
    2. Via Snail Mail:
      • Representative Anna Eshoo, 205 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
      • Office of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, 112 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
      • Senator Dianne Feinstein, United States Senate, 331 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
  4. Let us know you’ve sent your letter (to count toward our goal!)
    • Email givingbackbook  at gmail , or better still
    • Comment on this post, include a copy of your letter, if you like, and let us know where you sent it.
  5. Invite a friend to participate in the letter writing campaign. Share this blog post. Bring the letter writing campaign up in a conversation.