Over five hundred people filled the ballrooms at WMU Bernhard Center to hear Dr. J. Louis Felton speak at the ISAAC 15th Anniversary Banquet on Thursday evening, June 30. Dr. Felton, formerly senior pastor at Galilee Baptist Church, came from Philadelphia PA to celebrate the work of ISAAC (Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy & Action in the Community), and also of ERACCE (Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity), both of which he co-founded in 2001-02 when he was president of the Northside Ministerial Alliance (NMA.)
“You are a change agent,” Dr. Felton asked everyone present to tell someone near them. “A radical shift in values” is necessary “to bring heaven to earth.” He described how, when he was elected NMA president, by only one vote, no women were allowed in the pulpit. Now several Northside churches are led by female pastors. “Rev. Linda MacDonald, then pastor of North Presbyterian Church, wouldn’t have been allowed to join the NMA if we hadn’t made a radical shift.” She became founding co-president of ISAAC with Dr. Felton, and then president of ISAAC. Under Dr. Felton’s leadership, the NMA also created two levels of membership, clergy and community, because, “if you’re the chief of police, I don’t want to talk about you, I want to talk to you.” And when he was on the board of the Kalamazoo Foundation, “we changed the name to Kalamazoo Community Foundation, because a shift in values was needed.”
“If you’re tilting your head to look down your nose at anyone, you can’t be level-headed.” “If you put your head in the sand, your rear end is up for everyone to see.” “The question isn’t whether you’re a racist, it’s whether you’re anti-racist. The racist work was done generations ago. Racism was built into the Constitution and all our institutions.”
ERACCE won the ISAAC Ally of the Year Award at the banquet, for its support of the ISAAC “Racial Healing & Action Service” in September, its powerful presentation at the ISAAC Issues Convention in October that led to anti-racism being chosen as a top priority of ISAAC, and its transformative trainings all year round on “Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism” that many members of the 24 congregations and organizations in ISAAC have taken.
The Vote YES for Kids Steering Committee won the ISAAC Public Ally of the Year Award, for its constructive collaboration and highly successful, creative campaign to change the fact that 1200 children in public schools throughout Kalamazoo County have been homeless each year. State Rep. Jon Hoadley received the award for all the partner organizations who were committed to the vision that “All children deserve a place to call home” and who won passage of the $5 millage allowing the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission to give housing help, beginning this fall, to families with school children.
First Congregational Church UCC won the ISAAC Founders Award for its very generous support for the work of ISAAC “to build a more just community.” Pastor Nathan Dannison was an ISAAC organizer before completing his Master of Divinity degree and becoming the pastor at First Congregational. His congregation shares his passion for “the Beloved Community” that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke and wrote about.
Ms. Wendy Flora from Christian Church – Disciples of Christ, won ISAAC Leader of the Year for a long list of leadership roles, including co-chairing the ISAAC Youth Violence Prevention Task Force. She was the one who asked David M. Kennedy to speak at the ISAAC 2012 banquet about his Group Violence Intervention approach, called a miracle in other cities. His staff said no, but Wendy persisted and got a yes. Since then the task force has worked closely with community leaders and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety on implementation, and thanks to the Gilmore Foundation and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, funding has been granted this spring for training officers and community leaders in this collaborative approach to giving at-risk youth a better path.
DVDs will be available of the banquet program, including Dr. Felton’s talk, performances by Yolonda Lavender & DC from Truth Tone Records, Dr. Jo Ann Mundy from ERACCE, and Christian Diaz from People’s Church, messages from Dr. Addis Moore from Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Pastor Strick Strickland from Second Baptist Church, and ISAAC President Pastor Doug King of Grace Covenant Ministries, interfaith blessings by Rabbi Matt Zerwekh of Temple B’nai Israel, Ms. Gulnar Husain of the Islamic Center of Kalamazoo, and Dr. Joslyn Mason of Unity of Kalamazoo, introductions of all the public officials present by State Senator Margaret O’Brien and State Rep. Jon Hoadley, and more, plus a slide show of ISAAC’s 15 years. Call the ISAAC office, 269-341-4213, to order a DVD, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
– Tobi Hanna-Davies, ISAAC VP for Communication