I am humbled and blessed to be apart of Sojourners Emerging Voices Project which is a initiative that aims to raise the voices of new leaders for faithful justice. I found out about this in the spring but the project was officially launched yesterday. God is hilarious because a few years ago I complained to friends and God about the lack of women and people of color speaking, leading and writing in the faith-based social justice world. Often when we complain about something that needs to get done God will point back at you and say “why don’t you do it?” In 2007 I was discouraged about the lack of concern for justice I observed in the church, had recently left a really bad church situation and was praying and crying about the gap between my reality and the church. During that time after a fast I learned about Sojourners from a email to Union students inviting us to apply for a scholarship to the Pentecost 2007 Conference (which I thought was a Black Pentecostal Social Justice Conference, one of my girlfriends even thought I was going to meet somebody there, LOL). I attended the conference and found a community of Christians striving for justice nationally but more importantly in NYC. At the conference I met Lisa Sharon Harper (a fellow Emerging Voices member), Rev. Peter Heltzel and Anna Lee Winans all founders of NY Faith & Justice. I returned home fired up to organize people of faith for social justice. A year later I was able to intern at Sojourners as a Beatitudes Society Fellow and began writing for the magazine and blog. I never expected to have these opportunities but God does hear our spoken and unspoken prayers. Those who know me know that I come from very humble circumstances and I was not raised in church, all I have to qualify me for this work is God’s grace and the words of my testimony.
I am a pro-life evangelical and a recent seminary graduate. I am also an Black formerly homeless woman, who grew-up in 1 of the 12 communities in New York City that sends the highest number of people to New York state prisons and a community organizer at one of city’s oldest non-profit agencies, for all of the above reasons I am attending the Young Democrats of America Faith & Values Summit this weekend in Washington, D.C.
Yesterday, I learned that the Paul Ryan budget had been released. I know that many of the proposed budget cuts from funding to AmeriCorps (which I am an alumni of) to social service funding will directly affect me, my community, my family and friends. As a Christian I know that Christ launched his earthly ministry by quoting the Hebrew text Isaiah 61 which states that the Gospel is: “good news to the poor”, yet when I look around my faith community I see my Christian brothers and sisters supporting policies and legislators that have nothing good to say to or about the poor. The YDA Faith & Values Summit gives me an opportunity to meet like minded people of faith, who are inspired by their faith to be politically engaged in progressive politics.
The YDA Summit is focused on equipping young Democrats to connect with people and communities of faith. Top Democratic leaders will train participants in communications and campaign strategies aimed at showing the deep connection shared between religious Americans and the Democratic Party that are values focused- values like loving our neighbor, justice and opportunity for all, and a belief that we’re greater together when we pursue the common good through our public policy.
The Summit is bringing together 100 young leaders from around the country who are committed to connecting with religious Millennials, a demographic group that is increasingly progressive. Through the Summit and other efforts of its Faith and Values Initiative, YDA is developing a strong Democratic faith contingent that speaks confidently about Democratic common good values. YDA is certainly entering new territory with this effort, but the timing and political environment could not be more ripe. Young people of faith are leaving the Republican Party in large numbers and looking for a new political home that is more in line with their values, and YDA is well-positioned to fill the void.
While there’s much work to do on the Democratic side when it comes to faith outreach, the Faith and Values Leadership Summit is an exciting first-step in what promises to be a worthwhile conversation about which Party best represents the values of people of faith. As I observe this season of Lent instead of fasting from certain foods like chocolate, I will travel to DC to keep the fast spoken of in another Hebrew text from the prophet Isaiah which states: “the kind of fasting God wants is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice…share your food with the hungry and give clothes to those who have nothing to wear” this has to be the fast I keep because my community desperately needs justice.