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Fri Sep 22, 2017

In shadow of Charlottesville, GBIO vigil draws thousands to affirm Unity, Love, and Strength -Greater Boston Interfaith Organization

Leaders stand in unity, committing to peace and justice

1700 people attended an interfaith service at Temple Israel on August 18th, in response to the tragic events of Charlottesville, VA, and the night before a controversial rally on Boston Common by alleged White supremacists. At the event, organized by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh joined Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to denounce racism and anti-semitism and to call for a shared commitment to peace and justice.

In the program for the event, Boston area religious leaders issued a joint statement on “the horrific events in Charlottesville,” expressing outrage at the “hate-mongers” and imploring our political and religious leaders to “call out this behavior instantly, unequivocally—to decry it with instinctive, full-throated condemnation.”

The service included prayers, songs, and calls to unity, love and strength by Sarah Higginbotham (First Church Cambridge), Elaine Zecher and Cantor Roy Einhorn (Temple Israel), Hajja Ashaki Taha-Cisse and Qari Muhammed Nabil Mustafa (ISBCC), Rev. Mariama White-Hammond (Bethel AME), Shaykh Yasir Fahmy (ISBCC), Rev. Nancy Taylor (Old South Church), Rabbi Or Rose (Center for Global Judaism), Liz Walker (Roxbury Presbytarian Church), Rev. Oscar Pratt (St. Katharine Drexel), and Rabbi Matthew Soffer (Temple Israel Boston).

Attendees applaud during Interfaith Gathering of Unity, Love, and Strength
// Photo Credit: Craig F. Walker, Boston Globe Staff

Fri Sep 22, 2017

Community Purchasing Alliance Welcomes New Regional Director: Jessica Johnson -Community Purchasing Alliance

The Community Purchasing Alliance is an IAF affiliate working to ease the pain of non-profit facilities management across DC, Maryland, and Virginia. This month CPA Co-op would like to highlight a leader from within our organization, our new Regional Director: Jessica Johnson. Jessica brings with her 13 years of management, sales, and contracting experience in the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors. Already Jessica has put her skills and experience to good use, bringing in 20 new participants and building out a new paving program to add to our growing list of program areas. The fact that our co-op is in the position to hire a professional of Jessica's caliber is indication enough that our model is working, and that we can build meaningful financial power among the institutions that are already organized within the IAF. Best of all, CPA Co-op is committed to reinvesting 60% of our profits directly back into the IAF. (Last year this was $36,000 and this year we expect it to be more than $60,000). You can read more about CPA Co-ops roots in community organizing here. With excellent team members like Jessica onboard, CPA's growth is indicative of the kind of success we can expect from this new fundraising model for organizing. 

Fri Sep 22, 2017

CONECT Leaders Continue Fight to Reduce Gun Violence -Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut


CONECT leaders have continued to play an important role in the national Do Not Stand Idly By campaign, which seeks to persuade gun manufacturers to take action to prevent gun theft and illegal sales and to innovate to create safe / smart gun technology. New Haven Mayor Harp has invited CONECT to present the campaign to the African American Mayors’ Association in October.

Back in May, three CONECT leaders attended the annual shareholders meeting of Sturm, Ruger, Inc., one of the nation’s largest gun manufacturers headquartered in Southport, CT.  They met the CEO, pressing him and other executives to respond to the growing demand for action. 120 mayors, police chiefs, and other officials around the country have agreed to use their buying power (40% of all gun sales are to the public sector) to demand that gun companies respond. In July, CONECT added Westport First Selectman Marpe to the list of 10 CT officials already supporting the campaign. 

Fri Sep 22, 2017

In New York, Parishioners March On in Fight for Affordable Housing -Metro IAF NYC

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer walking with residents
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer walking with residents 

Church was held in the streets on Sunday, September 17th as hundreds of parishioners from St. Thomas Episcopal and St. Barbara’s Catholic Church participated in two overlapping processions from their worship services. Parishioners marched to empty New York City housing land and got public commitments from NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Councilman Espinal to support EBC’s plan to build 15,000 new units of affordable senior housing. On October 9th, EBC and Metro IAF NYC will challenge Mayor de Blasio at City Hall during a 5,000 person action to launch this campaign.

Community Leader, Blanche Romey, interviewed by News 12 Brooklyn










Residents march for affordable senior housing

Fri Sep 22, 2017

Justice United Sets New Agenda -Justice United

Leaders discuss community concerns and upcoming issue priorities

On September 10th over 80 Justice United leaders met at Lattisville Grove Missionary Baptist Church in rural Hurdle Mills, NC to prioritize top community concerns for action that were surfaced by the organization's recent listening campaign. 

Leaders voted to focus on broad categories of concerns related to Housing, Immigration, and Jobs, and affirmed Lattisville Grove Pastor George Crews III’s vision of a truly broad based organization: one capable of making change across the urban / rural divide; where leaders of all races could learn how to build reciprocal, relational power to resolve issues rooted in historic injustice.

Fri Sep 1, 2017

BUILD Demands Baltimore City Mayor Release Strategy to Fight Violence -BUILD

BUILD turns out 250 members to act on violence in Baltimore.

After the BUILD City Wide Action Team meeting of 102 people at St Matthew Church agreed that violence should be the top priority issue, BUILD turned out 250 members on August 2nd to demand the Baltimore City Mayor release her comprehensive strategy to fight violence.  BUILD then called on the Mayor to convene top law enforcement, corporate, and philanthropic leaders along with BUILD & the City Council to review the plan and make it actionable.  As part of BUILD’s work, the organization committed to hitting the streets to listen to over 1,000 residents about what they think must be done to reduce the violence. Mayor Pugh released her plan on August 9th.

Baltimore Sun reporter, Ian Duncan, tweets about BUILD’s ability to deliver on turnout.

Fri Sep 1, 2017

CONECT Turns Out in Support of Jung Courville, South Korean Immigrant Facing Deportation -CONECT.

300 people pack St. Jerome to stand in solidarity with Jung Courville and her family.

With just three or four days notice, more than 300 St. Jerome and CONECT leaders turned out on Monday, August 7th for a Prayer Vigil in support of Jung Courville and her family after her recent order of deportation.  Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling and Senator Richard Blumenthal also attended. Courville is a South Korean immigrant and has been the in US for 18 years, married to a US Citizen for 14 years, and is the mother of two with no criminal record.  Attendees signed 426 letters of support for Courville, sending the letters to ICE Officials in Hartford and the Immigration Court in Philadelphia.

Jung and family receive a blessing during a prayer vigil in Norwalk, CT.

Senator Richard Blumenthal addresses St. Jerome and CONECT attendees during prayer vigil.

Thu Aug 31, 2017

A “Beacon of Hope” -- BUILD and TRF/DP Win Historic Preservation Award -The Baltimore Sun

Senator Ben Cardin

BUILD and TRF/DP won the 2017 ACHP/HUD (American Council on Historic Preservation/Housing and Urban Development) Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.  Senator Ben Cardin called BUILD and TRF/DP a “beacon of hope.” The Mayor’s acting housing commissioner called the 15-year effort the ripple that started the renewal in communities surrounding Oliver, citing over 700 properties rehabbed in the five communities that “touch” Oliver.  Bishop Miles, BUILD Co-chair emeritus, called us to action to redevelop communities across the city, building on the strengths of Johnston Square.

Thu Aug 31, 2017

At GBIO Teach-Ins, Hundreds Gather to Learn about Threats Facing the Muslim Community -Greater Boston Interfaith Organization

Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) Muslim Teach-In at Temple Isaiah, Lexington, MA

270 people attended GBIO’s and Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC)’s July 25th Teach-In. Muslim leaders shared perspectives on being Muslim in Boston, and panelists discussed discrimination and Islamophobic policies, including the travel ban, the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policy, and potential legislation/Executive Order declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. 70 interfaith donors committed to making a symbolic donation to the ISBCC or other Muslim organization, to show solidarity, and to disrupt the targeting of Muslims through donor tracking. 60 pledged to join a campaign fighting threats to the Muslim community.

The July event was one of a series of Teach-Ins being held throughout Greater Boston, as part of the Out of Many, One campaign, run by GBIO and member organization ISBCC to address the targeting of Muslims and immigrants. 120 people attended the first in the series, held at First Church in Cambridge on April 30th. Additional Teach-Ins are scheduled for later in the year.

The July Teach-In, at Temple Isaiah in Lexington, began with a short introduction by Senior Rabbi Howard Jaffe, followed by a coffee table conversation between Rabbi Jaffe and Samer Naseredden, the Youth Programs Director at ISBCC. Samer provided his own personal story, responded to some basic questions about Islam, and gave a community perspective.

The second part of the program featured a panel discussion, moderated by Associate Rabbi Jill Perlman, exploring discrimination and threats facing the Greater Boston Muslim community. Panelists included Stephanie Marzouk, an immigration lawyer and co-founder of the Muslim Justice League, and Nadeem Mazen, an educator, entrepreneur, and community organizer who was elected to the Cambridge City Council in 2013 and again in 2015, when he received the most votes across all 23 candidates for City Council.

Thu Aug 31, 2017

GCC Gets Encouraging Updates on Reform from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor -Greater Cleveland Congregations


Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley provided written updates to Greater Cleveland Congregations about commitments made during the 2016 prosecutors election to reform the county's criminal justice system.  

Highlights of the report include:

1. Police Use of Deadly Force Policy - in all cases of police use of deadly force against civilians, Mr. O'Malley will request an independent prosecutor and investigation team to handle such cases.  This will minimize the chances of conflict of interest with the County Prosecutor attempting to investigate officers with whom his office has regular contact. 

2. Civil Rights Unit - in recent years, Ohio has seen a steep rise in the number of hate crimes.  The Civil Rights Unit, the first in the County's history, was established to review allegations of civil rights violations, including allegations of hate crimes and acts by public employees.  The Unit, which was set up in March, has already handled several cases.  One case involved the prosecution of an East Cleveland Police Officer for violating two women's civil rights during a traffic stop.  Another case involved the prosecution of a man for targeting another racial group.     

3. Drug Court/Diversion - Mr. O'Malley has submitted proposed changes to the courts that would significantly change eligibility requirements for Drug Courts and establish a new diversion program that would allow hundreds of new people to benefit from these programs, which upon completion vacate felony convictions, giving them a second chance at life.

Thu Aug 31, 2017

Barbara Kraft: From Union Household to Labor Lawyer, a Fighter for Living Wage Jobs -Washington Interfaith Network

Barbara Kraft is a member of Washington Interfaith Network’s (WIN) Strategy Team and chair of the Social Action Committee at Temple Sinai. Barbara grew up in the industrial Midwest cities of Cleveland and Detroit in a proud union household. Barbara is keenly aware of how union jobs provided stability for her family and community.

“There is a self-respect and sense of identity and self-worth that one derives from work that is meaningful and that supports one’s family.”

Barbara’s passion for living wage jobs led her to a career as a labor lawyer and then to begin volunteering with WIN to help drive WIN’s DC Water Jobs Campaign. In 2015 that campaign led to a historic agreement where DC Water committed to a goal that 51% of its new hires will be DC residents. DC Water will also open training programs to teach DC residents Skills that DC Water needs in its hires -- green infrastructure, commercial driver’s license (CDL) training, and other related skills.

In her spare time, Barbara enjoys life with her labor lawyer husband Peter, studies drawing and painting at the Washington Studio School where she currently serves as president of the board of directors, relishes her piano, and visits her rock-climbing son in Tucson and daughter who is part of a rock band in Brooklyn. WIN is grateful that Barbara is bringing her talent and passion to our Strategy Team and Jobs Team.

Wed Jul 26, 2017

OCJU Holds Record-Breaking Number of Listening Sessions -Justice United

Listening sessions at the Church of the Advocate and Lattisville Grove Missionary Baptist Church

61 leaders of Orange County Justice United attended listening session training in May and pledged to engage up to 945 diverse members of their communities in discussions about the key pressures facing their families and to identify deeply felt community concerns. Listening session campaigns are used to set a new grassroots agenda for the organization and take place through a series of small or large group meetings hosted within member institutions. These discussions will lead to a new collective action agenda for Justice United in the fall. 

Wed Jul 26, 2017

FRVI Continues to Push Batavia City Council to Say YES to Mixed Income Housing Development -Fox River Valley Initiative

The Campana building, an underutilized factory building, would be used to create affordable housing in the valley

The Fox River Valley Initiative is fighting diligently to secure 8 YES votes for 80 units of mixed income housing in the city of Batavia, IL. 64 of the units would be affordable and 8 used for people with disabilities. At a recent housing forum, 140 people attended, with only 15 voices against the new development. 

Wed Jul 26, 2017

Celebrating Organizer Leo Penta, “A Prophet of the Possible” -DICO

DICO held an action for Leo Penta in Berlin to celebrate his retirement from The Catholic University of Berlin. Leo remains the Director of DICO and will remain the key organizer in DICO's effort to develop 75 acres in the eastern part of Berlin. Below are the remarks of Jonathan Lange at the action.

Remarks at July 7, DICO Action:

Thirty-seven years ago, a young priest in New York decided that meaningful ministry in the then-devastated and neglected communities of East Brooklyn required -- demanded! -- a new kind of engagement.  Leo met two IAF organizers -- then-director Ed Chambers and Mike Gecan. Together with other key lay and clergy leaders, they organized a powerful Burger Platform in Brooklyn, EBC. In time, EBC, Leo and the Brooklyn leaders completely re-constructed the abandoned and under-used blocks of that area with thousands of homes for working families.  The value of those 4,000 homes and 2,000 apartments -- now equity and value retained by the African American and Hispanic buyers -- exceeds two billion dollars.

They are still building today -- on a large site called Spring Creek -- which bore, before EBC's efforts, a stunning resemblance to the land we are gathered on this evening.  It was enormous, neglected, underused.  There, like here, it took vision to imagine a whole new community of thriving individuals and families, which is emerging as we speak.

Everywhere Leo Penta has lived and worked since his Brooklyn days, he has been an evangelist of engagement and power -- a prophet of the possible. He continued to define his calling in broad and creative terms.  All of us have benefited from that.

When I needed help 25 years ago to root the Baltimore "Living Wage" campaign in the language, tradition and theology of the church, it was Leo who taught me how to do that.  When Berlin's Catholic University needed to get outside of its walls to fully teach its students, again it was Leo. And when the IAF needed to prove to itself and others that organizing universals were indeed universal, Leo proved that by introducing Community Organizing to the European Continent..

Now they tell us he is retiring, but we don't believe it. Perhaps the University has a mandatory retirement age of 65, but we don't. And Leo has so much more to do. We are so proud of our IAF brother Leo and look forward to many more years from him of practicing and teaching the art of organizing.

I personally look forward to the first ground breaking and the first house warming here on this land.  Whether one is formally religious or not, it is clear that there is a spiritual dimension -- a movement of the human spirit -- in this work.  And no person embodies that spirit more than Leo Penta.

Tue Jun 20, 2017

Jersey City Together Works to Prevent a Toxic Deal for Jersey City -Jersey City Together

On Monday, June 12th, about 50 Jersey City Together leaders launched a campaign to ensure the Bayfront Development (a 100-acre site owned by Honeywell International & the City of Jersey City on the west side) serves the real needs of the city, particularly local jobs & affordable housing. Leaders with ICO (an IAF organization like JCTogether) fought to clean this site up in the 1980s & 1990s, and JCT wants to ensure the best deal possible is created for Jersey City residents

Press: Jersey Journal, NJTV, Politico, Hudson Co View.

Link to Video:

Tue Jun 20, 2017

GBIO Springs into Action on Criminal Justice, Healthcare, Housing and Immigrant and Muslim Organizing -Greater Boston Interfaith Organization

Over 700 people packed Temple Israel in Boston on May 18th to support Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s campaigns: Criminal Justice Reform, Healthcare, Affordable Housing, and “Out of Many, One” — a campaign addressing the targeting of immigrants and Muslims. Over 220 people committed to action on Criminal Justice Reform — asking friends outside Greater Boston to call their legislators, coordinating in-district meetings, or attending a public hearing. Over 140 people committed to support the “Out of Many, One” campaign, ether by attending a Bystander training or attending a Muslim Teach-In.

At the assembly, GBIO leaders also committed to building new relationships with corporate leaders. Bishop Miles, from our sister Metro IAF organization in Baltimore, shared stories of BUILD’s victories negotiating with corporate powerhouse Johns Hopkins to create jobs for returning citizens and the chronically unemployed.

Tue Jun 20, 2017

CONECT Demands Police Reforms Following Fatal Shooting of 15-Year Old -Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut

A dozen CONECT Clergy and Lay leaders gathered at the site of 15 year-old Jayson Negron's fatal shooting by a Bridgeport Police Officer with several of Jayson’s family members (his sister, aunt and cousin) to call for 1) a timely and transparent investigation, 2) the use of body and dash cameras by the Bridgeport Police Department, and 3) the prioritization of de-escalation and racial/cultural sensitivity training for all Bridgeport police officers.

CONECT called on Mayor Ganim, Police Chief Armando Perez, and State's Attorney Platt to meet with CONECT on these issues. Depending on the progress of the investigation and what it shows, CONECT may call for other changes in the future as well.

Click here for video.

Mon Jun 12, 2017

City & State NY Recognizes EBC Leader Rev. David Brawley as Champion of Affordable Housing in East New York -EBC

"In many ways, Brawley and East Brooklyn Congregations have filled a leadership vacuum in the community that would normally fall to local elected leaders.

The results they have delivered for East Brooklyn are undeniable: construction of 3,187 ultra-affordable “Nehemiah homes” and over 1,500 apartments, including an 80-unit senior living facility; the establishment of several quality charter schools; a national campaign to persuade gun manufacturers to responsibly distribute guns; a massive push for the city to repair thousands of public housing units; and dozens of other quality-of-life accomplishments, including street repairs and clean grocery stores.

You won’t find Brawley grandstanding on the steps of City Hall or taking gratuitous shots at the mayor in a show of political strength. Brawley’s philosophy is to carefully research the issues at hand, come up with pragmatic solutions and, in kind, he expects a genuine dialogue and commitment for tangible improvements from his counterparts."

Wed May 17, 2017

At GBIO’s first Muslim Teach-in, over 100 commit to fighting discrimination -GBIO

120 people attended Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s first in a series of Teach-ins, part of GBIO’s new Out of Many, One campaign which addresses the targeting of Muslims and immigrants. At the teach-in, members of GBIO and the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) shared experiences of being Muslim in Boston, and Shannon Erwin and Yusufi Vali, Executive Directors of the Muslim Justice League and ISBCC respectively, gave an overview of specific threats facing the Muslim community. Over 100 interfaith donors committed to making a symbolic donation to the ISBCC or other Muslim organizations, as part of a campaign to interfere with the targeting of Muslims through the tracking of donor lists. 6-8 additional teach-ins will be held over the next several months.

Wed May 17, 2017

Berlin Affiliate, DICO, Pushes Local Government to Support Affordable Housing Vision -Berlin Germany

 As part of the ongoing campaign by the three Berlin DICO-affiliates to develop large-scale affordable housing, some 90 leaders gathered on a 74-acre underutilized industrial riverfront site to envision its potential and meet the owner. The currently underused 74 acres can be transformed into a new community including some 3,200 units of housing, as well as a school, kindergardens and public spaces. DICO is pushing the Boro of Treptow-Köpenick to support its vision.  The Boro continues to oppose the project despite supporting luxury housing development in the vicinity.

Wed May 17, 2017

WIN Leaders, Former Temple Courts Resident Share Importance of Affordable Housing in DC -WIN

WIN leaders, Nathan Brown and John Ducey, sat down with radio host, Kojo Nnamdi, on April 26th to discuss Temple Courts, affordable housing that was knocked down 8 years ago and still has not been rebuilt. As a former resident, Brown spoke of the importance of having a seat at the table as the developer selection process moves forward.

Wed May 17, 2017

In Boston, GBIO leaders push for Criminal Justice Reform -GBIO

Over 30 GBIO leaders attend statehouse rally as Lawmakers call for broader criminal justice reforms.
Over 30 GBIO leaders attend statehouse rally as Lawmakers call for
broader criminal justice reforms.

GBIO leaders have organized 7 In-District Meetings with 23 MA State Senators and Representatives to build support for 4 key reforms to the criminal justice system: repealing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, pretrial and bail reform, reducing/eliminating fees and fines, and shortening length of time spent in solitary confinement. 50 GBIO leaders stepped up to organize teams, invite and build relationships with these legislators, invite congregants and constituents, and run great actions. GBIO now plans on taking that work to the rest of the state through denominational allies. 

Wed May 17, 2017

Metro IAF Affiliates Push for $1 Billion in Dedicated Funding Annually to Keep WMATA Moving -Metro IAF & ATU

Photo Credit:  Photos by George Duncan

Together with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, Metro IAF affiliates continue to fight to save the DC region’s metro rail system. On April 27th, 400-500 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 descended on the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) Board meeting to protest Metro service cuts, privatization schemes, wage/benefit cuts that threaten rider safety and workers' jobs. Members packed the WMATA board meeting and dropped 4,000+ petitions right in front of WMATA General Manager and then chanted "Who moves this city?  WE MOVE THIS CITY!!!" and joined a picket outside - then formed a human chain all the way around the headquarters which spans a whole city block.

On Sunday, May 7th, leaders from five Metro IAF affiliates -- AIM, BUILD, PATH, WIN and VOICE – packed a downtown Washington, DC church to demand $1 billion a year in dedicated funding for Metro. Metro IAF proposed a mix of sales, gas and property taxes to improve the transit system, stop bus cuts, defend the jobs of 10,000 predominantly African American middle class workers and to push for affordable housing on WMATA land.

Photo Credit:  Photos by George Duncan
Thu May 4, 2017

Common Ground Holds First Bi-Lingual Delegates' Assembly -Common Ground

Common Ground held a landmark action on April 26, conducting its first bilingual Delegates’ Assembly at the largest Latino parish in Milwaukee, St. Adalbert’s, located on the south side. 44 organizations and 750 leaders of all ages and backgrounds were represented, each dedicated to making Milwaukee a better place for everyone to live.

Common Ground’s presence has grown on the south side over the past year, thanks to dedicated leaders from our South Side caucus. These leaders made major contributions to Common Ground by increasing the number of south side member organizations and by organizing the 40/40 Group. The 40/40 Group is dedicated to training young community leaders on how to make change in their community using Common Ground’s social justice methods. Common Ground needs young community leaders like these for the vitality, savvy and dedication they bring now, and to ensure that Common Ground continues to gain power in the future.

Wed Apr 26, 2017

LI-CAN Launches Opioid Fight -Long Island Congregations and Neighborhoods


1300 people jammed a high school gym on Long Island on April 26 to launch LI-CAN's campaign on the opioid crisis.  Concrete pledges of action were made by 23 congregations, 6 public school districts, and 207 high school students as part of LI-CAN's Covenant to End the Opioid Epidemic.  At its next major event, in October, LI-CAN will ask corporate and political leaders to make specific contributions to help end an epidemic that claimed 493 lives on Long Island in 2016.  Days after the event, LI-CAN leaders stood with Sen. Charles Schumer to applaud Schumer’s push for new federal legislation to help stem the flow of deadly fentanyl into the U.S.