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Community Organizing Networks Speak Out About “Actual Responsibilities”

September 4, 2008, 4:39 pm | Posted by Kristin Ford

Respond to Governor Palin’s Remarks

(September 4, 2008) – Faith-based community organizing leaders are speaking out today about the “actual responsibilities” of community organizers and their tremendous impact every day on the lives of millions of Americans.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s remark last night — that her experience as “a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities” — reflects the fact that many of our political leaders have no idea what community organizing is or how it impacts the lives working people in communities across America every day.

Community organizers are equipping tens of thousands of clergy and lay leaders in thousands of congregations across America to take effective action to improve the lives of millions of Americans. PICO, Gamaliel, DART, and Interfaith Worker Justice are four of the congregation-based community organizing networks dedicated to this work. Contact leaders from each to learn more:

“As a life-long Republican, the comments I heard last night about community organizing crossed the line. It is one thing to question someone’s experience, another to demean the work of millions of hard working Americans who take time to get involved in their communities. When people come together in my church hall to improve our community, they’re building the Kingdom of God in San Diego. We see the fruits of community organizing in safer streets, new parks, and new affordable housing. It’s the spirit of democracy for people to have a say and we need more of it,”

said Bishop Roy Dixon, prelate of the Southern California 4th ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, member of the San Diego Organizing Project and former board chair of PICO National Network.

PICO is comprised of 53 faith-based organizations and 1,000 faith communities from 50 denominations working in 150 cities and town and 17 states. Bishop Dixon may be reached by cell at 619- 921-0738. Alternative contact: 734-255-4029.

“We can thank community organizing for the weekend, the 8 hour day, integrated swimming pools, public transportation, health care for children and safe neighborhoods. Community organizing is behind most of the family-oriented initiatives we benefit from every day. I am proud to work for change in my country, my state, and my city as a community organizer, following the great traditions of Dr. Martin Luther King,”

said Laura Barrett, National Policy Director of Gamaliel/Transportation Equity Network (TEN).

Gamaliel is a multifaith community organizing network in 60 metro regions in the US, as well as Great Britian and South Africa. 2,000 faith congregations, student groups and unions are involved in Gamaliel. Laura Barrett can be reach by cell at 314-443-5915.

“Contrary to Palin’s disparaging remarks, organizers have major responsibilities for creating policy changes. Feeding the hungry and housing the homeless are clearly responsibilities of people of faith. We do that by providing food and shelter and more importantly, by organizing to address the causes of injustice and inequity which lead to hunger and homelessness,”

said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice and the co-author of “Organizing for Social Change.”

Interfaith Worker Justice includes 60 affiliates and 20 workers centers and organizes people of faith to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for workers, especially low-wage workers. Kim Bobo can be reached by cell at 773-391-8844.

“Politicians should thank community organizers, not insult them. As a longtime organizer, I’ve seen time and time again the we are the ones who make government work for the poor, the powerless and the marginalized. Politicians’ policies and promises would amount to nothing without grassroots activists to hold them accountable. We are leaders of faith and stewards of democracy. In a time when the face of faith in politics is often ugly, community organizing is a valuable example faith’s positive role in public life,”

said Pastor Mark Diemer, senior pastor of Grace of God Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio and a DART community organizer.

DART has built and strengthened over twenty local affiliated organizations in six states and trained over 10,000 community leaders and 150 professional community organizers. Pastor Diemer may be reached by cell at 614-425-0284.

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