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.