President Elder Doug King, Executive Director Dr. Charlae Davis and the whole ISAAC family want to thank everyone who worked hard on issues presentations and all who attended to vote and support this work of justice. You are awesome!
Here’s Mlive’s coverage: “ISAAC chooses poverty, racism, housing as top Kalamazoo issues“SEE THE PHOTO GALLERY
And here’s our media advisory with more of the details:
Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy & Action in the Community (ISAAC) has chosen poverty, racism & housing as the issues it will tackle over the next two years. At the ISAAC Issues Convention on Thursday evening, more than 150 people present each “voted with their body” for the one social justice issue that they find most important to address right now in Kalamazoo County. Here are highlights of the presentations that inspired their votes:
Poverty – “Some statistics in our own newspaper shook me out of complacency about poverty,” said Rick Welch, member of First Congregational Church. “The national poverty rate is 12.6%. In Michigan it’s 15.5%. In Kalamazoo County it’s 18.3%. In Kalamazoo City it’s 30.9%. In inner city zones, it’s 48.3%. Sadly, this puts us 3rd from the bottom, with only Flint and Detroit having worse numbers.” Venessa Collins-Smith, City of Kalamazoo Compliance Specialist, gave depth of feeling to those numbers with her poem “I am Poverty,”
Racism – ”In our city it has been established by Cradle Kalamazoo that the ratio of black babies’ death is four times more than white babies,” said Al Dixon, member of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. “Women of color who are well educated, well-off and professional, have a greater rate of their babies dying than white women who are poor and uneducated. This shows the stress caused by racism.” Kerria Randolph from the Kalamazoo Public Library Board and Anti-Racism Team, and Jo Brown and J. Kyon from the PFC Natural Grocery & Deli Board and Anti-Racism Team, described the Library and PFC successes at improving equity and inclusion for all community members.
Housing – “We have a gap in our community–a gap between the number of housing units affordable to people working full-time at low-wage jobs and the number of affordable units we need. That gap is 3000 housing units,” said Dorla Bonner, Community Development Manager for the City of Kalamazoo. Housing Resources Inc. Program Director Jen Welles, and Open Doors Kalamazoo Deputy Director Stephanie Hoffman, and David Anderson, City Commissioner, Housing Director for Community Mental Health and Head of the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission, all described the urgency of this gap. A handout added: “On October 23rd, there were 101 children staying in the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. This year so far, the largest number recorded for a single night was in July. That number was 176 children.”
A task force was created on each of the three issues chosen. Members will ask community leaders and residents for ideas on how to change the ways things work, and they will form partnerships with community agencies. Then one year from now at the ISAAC Public Meeting, they will present the responses they have discerned and show elected leaders how strong the support is from the faith community, for policy changes that will help end poverty, racism, and the lack of affordable housing in Kalamazoo County.
Three other issue areas fell short of getting as many votes, despite compelling presentations: Immigration, Education, and Health Care. All six issues were prioritized by community residents during ISAAC’s Listening Engagement in neighborhoods in August and September, but ISAAC can choose only three issues to work on at once. “These issues all intersect,” said Elder Doug King, Pastor of Grace Covenant Ministries and President of ISAAC. “Whatever issue is of most concern to you, working on one of the issues chosen will help ISAAC create equity and the Beloved Community.”
Twenty-five local congregations from a wide variety of faith traditions are members of ISAAC, plus one campus ministry and two community organizations–the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP and El Concilio (the Hispanic American Council.) The multi-faith opening prayers at the Issues Convention were given by Rev. Rachel Lonberg of People’s Church Unitarian Universalist, Elder Ray Wicks of First Presbyterian Church, and Rabbi Matthew Zerwekh of Temple B’nai Israel. Rev. Ruth Moerdyk welcomed the crowd to Christian Church – Disciples of Christ, and Executive Director Dr. Charlae Davis gave the closing call to action: “What does the Lord require? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. – Micah 6:8”
“We who believe in freedom cannot rest,
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes”
As you look through these wonderful photos by Amy Peterson and Rick Johnson, imagine Dorla Bonner’s and Wendy Flora’s gorgeous voices leading us in singing that stirring song by Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock.