August 14, 2017
Dear PICO Clergy, Leaders, Colleagues and Staff,
The hoods are off! For years, Klansman have hidden on our city councils and our school boards, in our criminal justice system and in our pews. And, for decades have burned, desecrated and terrorized our sanctuaries and holy spaces, as demonstrated in Charlottesville, VA. As the largest faith-based network in the country, a prophetic voice is needed at the federation, state and national level, calling out the evil of white supremacy! Make no mistake, what is happening in Charlottesville is coming to a town near you! The KKK is rising again in numbers and visibility. Are we prepared to resist, protest, protect and heal?
As Black Directors of PICO, we are grateful to clergy and congregations who spoke and prayed with moral clarity this weekend. Now is the time to move beyond our prayers and preaching. We cannot wait for the next Alt-right/KKK Neo Nazi Aryan Nation Oath keepers rally. We cannot bow our heads or avert our eyes hoping against hope. We must bring radical love and power to the doorsteps of their headquarters and every elected office.
To Multi-faith, Multi-racial Communities of Clergy & Faith Leaders:
We call on leaders of faith and moral courage to engage in the work of racial justice and in dismantling white supremacy through popular education, defense training, public action and policy change.
To Black Clergy & Colleagues:
Add to the prophetic witness and protest OUR CHURCH was birthed, a commitment to deep care that addresses generational trauma, and a commitment to leadership that privileges the voices and leadership of Black women. Let’s take this opportunity to re-connect with millennial youth leaders who are looking for spiritual guidance and comfort, and a place to belong. In essence, let’s heal and make whole our community through these turbulent times.
To White Colleagues:
We need your voice and your physical presence at this moment, protesting and resisting whiteness and white supremacy at every turn; in your homes, churches, neighborhood associations and/or in your local city halls. We need you to organize your communities, congregations, and clergy around a white prophetic voice that dismantles white supremacy and protects Black and Brown lives. Even as we
continue to decenter whiteness and affirm the leadership of black women and men, we call on white leaders in resisting the dragon of white supremacy everywhere.
We need to prepare for Klan rallies across this nation by:
PROTECT:Contactyourlocalpolicedepartmenttodiscusstheprotection of black and brown people against white home-grown terrorists.
RESIST:Makeasecurityplan(includingnon-violenttraining)withlocal community groups on how to physically resist Klan rallies. Find a clergy person of color or group to support and follow.
PROTEST:Show-upwithyourtrainedcongregation,standinginthebreach in radical love against white supremacy.
HEAL:Provideanon-goinghealingspacepriortoandafterprotests, specifically targeting black people who for centuries have been terrorized by the KKK.
Right now, our hearts are in Charlottesville with our sisters and brothers on the ground, and we are praying for the family of Heather Heyer, who lost her life fighting against white supremacy. And, we are outraged that expressions of hatred would be protected. We are angered that the police response was slow in protecting peaceful protesters - given our collective experience in Ferguson, Baltimore, etc. Yet, we express gratitude for the courage, sacrifice, and leadership of our siblings.
Ecclesiastes 3:17 “I said to myself, “God will bring into judgement both the righteous and the wicked, for their will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.” Beloved Community, the time is now for activity that calls us into a radical resistance to the rhetoric and evil of hate in our land.
In Power and Love, PICO Black Directors
PS - This Hate Group Map resource from the Southern Poverty Law Center may help you learn about what is in your area.
On June 9, the Homeless Local Organizing Committee submitted formal policy recommendations to Sacramento County Supervisors. These comments culminate an effort over four months to understand issues and develop recommendations about proposals by the County and City of Sacramento to expand their program funding for homeless people. A major change is the decision to create a limited priority for homeless people to access public housing units (City) or housing choice vouchers (County), which they could not do before due to discriminatory rules. Over the period of three years as many as 1,700 homeless persons could obtain housing as a result of this change. In addition, both County and City decided to fund expansion of supportive services to help these newly housed people to be successful in their new homes. While these are major steps forward, ACT strongly urged both the County and the City at their June 13 hearings to develop a comprehensive plan to house or shelter all homeless people by 2022. Read complete recommendations here.
“I always thought that my vote didn’t count,” says Catherine Smith, ACT phone banker. “All my life I’ve been told that my vote is not going to matter, that they already have it figured out who and what is going to win,” adds Denise Thorne. “Through this work I’ve learned that your vote does count.” Both Catherine and Denise are excited to vote for the first time in their lives.
Sign the petition. As we endeavor to equip our Sacramento Community Policing Commission with the power needed to ensure the transparency and accountability of law enforcement, we have provided the City Council with our recommendations for changes to the Sacramento Community Policing Commission. Read the list of recommendations here.
At the beginning of September, 2015, the Governor’s Office said that it would take “an act of God” for the governor to sign Assembly Bill 953.
On September 2, 2015, Sacramento ACT leaders joined with PICO California leaders from across the state, as well as other organizations, as 1,000 people of faith descended on the State Capitol to urge the California State Assembly to pass AB 953, The Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015. The bill requires law enforcement to submit to the California Attorney General detailed information on police stops in an effort to end racial profiling by police.
Leaders staged a massive protest and die-in on the Capitol grounds, sharing memories of loved ones killed by law enforcement, stories of racial profiling, and boldly declaring God’s justice over the Capitol building. They occupied the Capitol and Governor Brown’s office, remembering loved ones who were lost to police violence.
Nearly a week later, the Assembly did pass the bill and it moved onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his consideration. This was one of the only Black Lives Matter police accountability reform measures to make it to the governor’s desk. The majority of police accountability bills were opposed and defeated by powerful law enforcement unions across the state, including local law enforcement.
Now it was time for the “act of God” that the governor invited. So ACT and other leaders participated in just that. They prayed for Governor Brown and held vigils round the clock at the State Capitol beginning on September 26. Catholic morning prayers were held at the Capitol. Church bible studies moved to the Capitol. A Shabbat Service was celebrated at the Capitol. A Jummah prayer service was held at the Capitol. Pentecostal pastors held a preach and pray-in, and delivered sermons outside of the door to the Governor’s office.
One week later, on October 3, 2015, the prayers of the people were answered and Governor Brown signed AB 953 into law.
Pyerse Dandridge is a leader in ACT’s work to increase the minimum wage. He has experienced the struggle to live on minimum wage noting that employers want workers with a grown up schedule, work ethic, and experience, but only want to pay them a teenager’s wage. He believes that when you pay employees a living wage, they have more ownership in the business which works to everyone’s advantage.
“This is a humanitarian crisis and no one is being held accountable.”
In early February, 2016, Pastor Les Simmons, ACT leader and Board Member, and Gabby Trejo, ACT organizer, flew to Flint, Michigan to work with other PICO leaders to support the people of Flint as they cope with the city-wide public health crisis created by their poisoned water.
PICO and its local affiliate, Michigan Faith in Action, are working to ignite people for change and the betterment of the whole community. Through door-to-door canvases they are assessing water and health needs, as well as inviting Flint residents to be involved in creating strategies to address the water crisis and hold public officials accountable.
By all reports it is clear that there are now among us many of our fellow Americans who are ready to “come for” Muslims. Other reports show that some are ready to “come for” Mexicans or African-Americans or somebody else. Sadly, and almost unbelievably, political leaders such as Donald Trump have put their cowardly and hateful agenda before the American people and the world as legitimate proposals, thus shaming our nation.
The vast majority of Americans recognize that we are a nation of immigrants and a nation that holds religious freedom as a fundamental value. People of faith such as those of us at Sacramento ACT (Area Congregations Together) are called upon to welcome the stranger in our midst as one of our own for we know we were once strangers. We are not called upon to condemn millions from a religious community or ethnic group for the actions of a few.
The assaulting frequency of the burning down of African-American churches in southern states since the Charleston shooting is barely short of a ripple of terror across our nation. On every front, from Ferguson to Baltimore, Charleston to the communities picking up the ruins of charred church buildings, the need to declare that Black Lives Matter is clear. The Sacramento Area Congregations Together Leadership is tremendously troubled by what appears to be a plan of attack.
At the time of this writing 8 occurrences are being investigated in four states.
(photo: ACT leader Antonio Campos with Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez)
By Rich Fowler, Staff to Bishop Soto
Diocese of Sacramento
Pope Francis has captured the imagination of the world with his compassionate encounters with people of all walks of life and circumstance, and his insistent reminder that we have organized our economy in a way that undermines family and community life, while excluding whole groups of people seen as “disposable.”
From April 29 to May 1, almost 300 representatives of PICO organizations, parishes, and congregations across the United States gathered at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia in preparation for Pope Francis’s visit to the United States in September. We launched an effort of faith-formation, education and organizing in response to Pope Francis’s leadership.
On Tuesday, Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) leaders flew to Ferguson Tuesday to bear witness, listen to the cries of the community and assist with community organizing for truth and justice in the killing of Mike Brown. They have witnessed the pain the community, participated in peaceful demonstrations and encouraged dialogue and reconciliation between law enforcement and the community. They are a cohort of clergy leaders from the PICO National Network across the country flying into Ferguson to provide support.
Below is a statement from ACT's Clergy Leader, Pastor Les Simmons of South Sacramento Christian Center on his experience. He is accompanied by Pastor Kevin Brown of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, and ACT's executive director, Ashlin Malouf Spinden