Miembros de diferentes grupos religiosos se reunen en Manhattan para ofrecer una comida por la celebración de Acción de Gracias. Al mismo tiempo que lanzan una campaña parahacer un llamado al increment del sueldo mínimo en el estado de Nueva York. Por ahora,el sueldo mínimo es de $7.25.
At $7.25 per hour, New York’s minimum wage remains decades out of date.
With growing numbers of New Yorkers relying on low-wage jobs to survive––too many workers in New York City do not earn enough to afford basic expenses, forcing many New Yorker’s with full-time jobs to rely on the city’s soup kitchens and shelters for meals each day. Many were hit hard by Sandy.
With Thanksgiving approaching, we are reminded that charity is not enough. As we give food to the hungry, we must also ask why people go hungry.
The New York State Assembly has already approved a proposal that would raise New York’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour and index it to keep pace with inflation. More than one million workers would see their wages rise as a result. The leadership of the New York State Senate has balked at approving a modest $1.25 per hour increase in the state minimum wage.
Now, Albany lawmakers are reported to be considering a salary bump to make themselves the highest paid legislators in the country––such a raise would amount to more than the annual salary of a full-time minimum-wage earner.
Please join faith leaders, low-wage workers, and community members to urge the New York state legislature to serve “the least among us,” not just themselves.
Eighty percent of New York voters support raising the minimum wage. Let’s show our solidarity with New York’s lowest income earners.
Occupy Faith and partners are launching a Rolling Jubilee, a people’s bailout to help eliminate debt—and make a stand in the face of our moral crisis of money, debt, and power. Rolling Jubilee may signal an important, and long needed, shift in how we do faith-based community organizing: one that might save not only the people, but also the church.
By Donna Schaper, Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church, NYC
WHY A SHIFT? Faith Based Community organizing has a fine history—from Gamaliel through the Jeremiah Project, through Brooklyn United, on to PICO and more than I couldn’t possibly name or remember. Appreciation is the most appropriate attitude and stance. Appreciation can also deepen and lead to a shift in strategy, and that is what is happening now in many parts of the country.
The time famine has intensified for many clergy and for their dwindling congregations, making it imperative to switch direction. The old organizing model had churches bringing their internal parish strength to external community action. This model wrongly equated the strength of congregations with the “number” of people in the pews who could be convinced to hold a protest sign. Now, it is time for a model that embodies mutuality. We clergy and congregations need the community’s help. We need the community’s energy to assist parishes so that parishes may assist communities. We need the outer to touch the inner. That shift in direction is happening of necessity, due to the extraordinary pressures on parish clergy. It could also happen by design and improve us all. One Canadian minister said, “The churches saved the arts during the Middle Ages, today the arts need to save the churches.” This comment resembles the direction we might desire instead of rue.
I came to this realization slowly, with some resistance. I often felt “used” by the rent-a-collar approach of many community and labor organizations. I often felt I had something different to give than what they wanted. They wanted “my” people in their picket lines. They wanted numbers. I increasingly had decreasing numbers, especially of dedicated people, most of whom knew their own time famine, while working three jobs, raising children, and trying to keep their mortgage payments above water. I realized that to be of use I had to get the numbers of people up in “my” pews before I got them “up” in their picket lines.
Plus, what I really had to give was not numbers but spiritual support. Organizers seemed to feel so burnt out, so despairing, so uselessly utilitarian. They wanted something from me and my people that we couldn’t give—when all the while, what we had in resources to combat despair, they ignored. They wanted a contractual arrangement, and what I had was covenantal. Now when organizers knock on my door to have yet another “one on one”, I tell them to come to church. I invite them to worship. I ask about the state of their soul. I don’t promise to produce numbers.
To explain this shift in direction, let me illustrate with a project that is coming out of Occupy Faith. We are developing a transitional project, one that goes internal and external dynamically, rather than going from one false polarity (inner to outer) to another (outer to inner). We want to change how congregations and community organizations get real power—a change which will help with the time famine and the housing famine and the hope famine. We are calling it a “Rolling Jubilee.”
WHAT IS A ROLLING JUBILEE?
A jubilee is a biblical practice of cancellation of debt on behalf of just prosperity for all, including the soil. It is rest from making money and gaining power—on behalf of human community. It is a new kind of faith based community organization, in which we Roll the Biblical Jubilee, that automatic and normal forgiveness of debt, and in which faith based organizing returns to its base in faith. It doesn’t stop organizing so much as it deepens the reasons that we must organize. We turn toward the urgency of the suffering of our people, in order to release our great hope in each other and in biblical power. We start with questions.
Did you know that debt cancellation is the biblical norm, not exception? Does your faith feel fraudulent as you live in a political economy that enjoys debt and its abuse? Check out Deuteronomy 13, or 5; and Exodus 20, 21, or 23. Find out what Muslims and other interfaith partners think about debt. Or, listen to Jesus in Luke 7, 11, or 16; or Matthew 6 or 18. You will discover why you feel so much like a stranger in a strange land. From that alienation you will connect to others, many of whom feel similarly alienated. In your connection, power will emerge.
The rolling jubilee is a campaign that buys debt for pennies on the dollar and does away with it. It is a release from the shame of being in debt. Many are ashamed of their student debt. Even more are ashamed that their mortgages are under water or that they have credit card debt they can’t possibly pay. What people don’t realize is that many national banks (as opposed to some local banks and credit unions) make out well by this shame. They make it look like it is our “fault” that we aren’t rich or famous, all the while gaining interest on the government’s debt and our personal debt, while wagging their fingers in absurd levels of shame and blame.
The time famine comes from internalized capitalism. We’ve simply been doing what “everybody does,” valuing what “everybody values.” Instead of blame, forgiveness is a good place to start. Way too much of faith based community organizing has an ought to attached to it. Rolling the jubilee is amay. You may forgive yourself for internalizing capitalism. This spiritual repentance becomes a permission (out of which grows an internalized ought or commitment) to enter our difficulty with hope and conviction, not with shame or blame.
New directions for faith based organizing fundamentally disavow the prioritization of coming to a meeting, of “showing up”, of “being counted.” We hope most that our people will be relieved of shame on behalf of something like freedom. From that freedom we believe they will uproot internalized capitalism, first in their own souls, then in their congregational life, then in their communities. Few can afford to go to any more meetings or read any more emails or make any more phone calls. Internally “tilted” community organization does not require a lot of meetings that no one can manage to get to. They are richly democratic and open sourced. They involve the viral and the possible by asking us to engage our friends and families, not people we don’t know or can’t know.
Story telling is the essential and important first step. Tell your story of money, power, and debt. Tell your story of repentance too. Were you so ashamed that you lost your job that you didn’t tell anybody? Who are your people and what is the story of your people’s journey through the lands of money, debt, and power? Do you have student debt? Do you have despair about what it bought you or can buy you? Are you underwater in your mortgage? Have you found a way out of shame about not being rich, in a land where that is the 11th commandment?
Tell your story, whenever, wherever, however you can. Engage the people around you. Listen to their story. Think of the popular NPR ‘Story Corps” and you will see where this is going. A national web site—a People’s Investigation of Money, Debt and Power—is now up.
While telling stories,don’t ask your faith leader to attend another meeting. Ask him or her to lead storytelling in your congregation and to link your stories to others. We imagine a great consciousness raising experience, where aha moments go viral. “I thought I was the only one in this congregation with crushing debt.” Aha, I am not. “I thought I was the only person who thought I was bad for not being successful.” Aha, I am not. “I thought I was the only person who knew that the system was rigged and that money in politics had destroyed the American dream and the dreamers.”
Of course, storytelling alone is not going to create the kind of change we seek, but it’s a good place to start—and it will reframe how we gather. Sure, we will still have to meet, put feet to the ground, and do the hard work of organizing. But because of this focus on spiritual need and storytelling… because of a reframed theological and personal understanding of the “why”… and because of new strategies to attend to people’s busy, crowded, and exhausted lives… this kind of organizing, we hope, will be life and energy-giving.
As a next step, begin an internal conversation about how your parish invests its monies. Divest from the big banks and put your congregation’s money into credit unions. Join up with others who will do the same—but don’t do so until the stories have seeped into the spirits of your people. Don’t just bring your pastors to meetings. Bring people’s stories to them and release the power of recognition. Raise the consciousness and combat the great loneliness of shaming stories and their multiplying impotence. Or create a micro-lending fund with some of your congregation’s monies. Experiment with local solutions to a stagnant, death relying economy. Or buy out some debt. Banks do it all the time—only they sell it and make more money on it. Why not take $5000, or raise $5000, and buy out some debt and cancel it?
What the national banks need to do is make money on our debt. What we need to do, then, is to make power on our resources: the (spiritual, storytelling, collective) power to change the very banking system and the economic structures that perpetuate unacceptable profit margins and the exploitation of the most vulnerable. It’s called Jubilee and it’s the way our Abrahamic forbears managed their fields. Faith based community organizations today have to tackle the enormous spiritual problems we face. Then we will be strong enough to take a crack at the material ones as well.
Carrying boxes of canned food, hot meals and blankets for distribution, Occupy Sandy volunteers do their part to help those hit hard by the hurricane throughout Coney Island, the Rockaways and other areas.
“We just got in a shipment of 1,400 blankets,” says Easton Smith to volunteers as he bustles into a downstairs kitchen. He is the site coordinator at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew at 520 Clinton Ave., one of three Occupy Sandy hubs, with the others at St. Jacobi Church at 5406 4th Ave. and the Red Hook Initiative at 767 Hicks Street.
Easton says with the help of Occupy Faith, an interfaith grassroots relief effort developed through Occupy Wall Street organizers, local churches have opened their doors to store donations, train volunteers and provide other relief efforts.
“They were like ‘yes, use our church,’” Easton, a resident of Bushwick, said. He added that over 2,500 volunteers had signed up to help at the location.
Monday’s New York Times suggests that even the one percent, the leaders of Wall Street, have been effected by the power of Hurricane Sandy. Certainly millions of middle class people have suffered dislocation, as well as loss of electricity, homes and their sense of security. What has been less discussed by the media and political leaders is how poor people (words hardly mentioned during the elections) here and around the world, whose daily support base is already fragile, have been the primary victims of Sandy and climate change in general.
In New York City, the residents of low income communities, such as Rockaway and the Lower East Side — most of them people of color, along with many elders and children — were first of all disproportionally vulnerable to the fury of the storm and then found themselves in dark streets and apartments and stranded in high rise buildings without elevators, without food or water and without the same level of timely aid as the more affluent areas. Happily, noble volunteer groups such as Occupy Sandy have stepped into the breach, a tribute to the ingenuity and generosity of the Occupy movement.
Even less known is the toll that Sandy took on the already struggling Carribean area before it touched on the U.S. mainland. Beautiful Santiago, the second largest city of Cuba with 500,000 people and 650,000 more on its outskirts was slammed by a Level 5 hurricane, which flattened its homes, schools and hospitals. They still have no electrical power after two weeks, while parts of New York City lit up after four days. Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, was also devastated.
On September27, almost prophetically a few days before Sandy, several Carribean and other heads of state made an urgent appeal to the next UN Climate Change Conference to be held on Nov. 29 in Qatar. They challenged the UN, in light of the failure of many of the past climate gatherings, to finally create concrete plans, strategies, financial aid and binding treaties to address the climate crisis, especially as it impacts the developing nations.
In their statements, these leaders insisted that their people are already the victims of global scorching:
“The islands of our planet are at war against climate change, warming temperatures and rising seas… Entire nations… may cease to exist as a result of our inaction.”
These are the voices of the poor — of the lowest percentile of the 99 percent — calling out to us. They are telling us that the climate policies of the richer nations and of the energy corporations do not represent their interests or the interests of Mother Earth. Sandy is a dramatic reminder of the words of Jesus: “Whatever you did not do for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did not do it to me.” ( Matthew 25)
This free event will allow those who do not have tickets for the sold out show to come together as we abolish debt, a revolutionary act of solidarity and mutual aid.
Thursday November 15
6:30 to 11pm
Church of the Village
201 W 13th Street- Entrance on 7th Ave.
New York NY 10011
Faith Leaders will talk about the spiritual crisis of money, debt and power, and how these issues are central to faith traditions.
8pm- Screening of The People’s Bailout Variety Show and Telethon
We will watch the telethon to launch The Rolling Jubilee, a campaign that buys debt for pennies on the dollar and does away with it. Instead of collecting the debt, we will abolish it and help free the debtors!
8pm- Breakout conversations
There will be breakout discussions around student, health care, credit card and housing debt, as well as reflections and conversations about Hurricane Sandy, climate change, and debt.
We will gather in celebration, watching, listening, sharing ideas and projects. It will be a wild night of music, comedy, magic, education, and the unexpected, both at the Church of the Village and at Le Poisson Rouge.
With the election now over, the ongoing contribution of the “Occupy” Movement represents a spiritual challenge to all our faith communities. What do our traditions have to say about money, debt, and power? Why are our faith communities largely silent on these issues of economic justice? All of us know that the kind of change we are looking for won’t come from our elected officials; it will have to come from us.
Join us next Thursday Night at The Church of the Village: doors open at 6:30 pm, but the program will begin at 7pm. We will be hearing from faith leaders on why these issues are so central to our faith traditions, and why the time has come for a new spiritual revival. Then, starting at 8 pm, we will be watching the live stream feed of “The People’s Bailout.” Catch this star-studded event (including our very own Rev. Jacqui Lewis and Rev. Clint Miller) which will be raising money for something we’re calling “The Rolling Jubilee” (scroll down for more information).
Here at Occupy Faith, we are calling for a new kind of religious conversation in this country. A conversation that recognizes that the reality of crushing debt for so many Americans is not a Republican issue, or a Democrat issue, it is a spiritual issue. We believe that nothing short of a prophetic revival is called for, and we are reaching out to people of faith like you and asking them to rearticulate and reclaim our core religious values around money, debt, and power. In a culture shaped by the so-called “prosperity Gospel,” all our debt stories are private and shameful, like unforgiveable Sins, never to be spoken aloud in the company of good people. But the truth is a system of oppression designed to keep people in debt, and we are asking for all people of faith to speak out.
The Occupy Movement is offering two ways to help facilitate this conversation…
1. “A People’s Investigation of Money, Debt, and Power (API).” This is not only a way to get all our private stories of crushing debt out into the open, it is a way to get everyone in our communities involved in the context of their own lives: either by sharing their own stories, or by collecting the stories of their families, and friends, and neighbors and co-workers. Our hope is that you might facilitate wider discussions around these stories within the pastoral context of your local community, but depending on the current commitments of your church, we will also be forwarding you a draft letter that can be forwarded to your community listservs, websites, and bulletin boards, that lets people know how they can be involved as individuals. Send your personal stories of loss or interest in gathering stories from your networks, in any format, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. “The Rolling Jubilee,” is an amazing new campaign from the Strike Debt working group of Occupy Wall-Street. Watch for an email next week with more details on the campaign’s November 15th launch, but the basic idea is this: raising money to buy debt (for pennies on the dollar), and then cancelling it. As a trial run, Occupy organizers spent $466 and bought $14,000 of debt. $100,000 could be bought for approximately $5,000. Through this facility, local faith communities could directly purchase medical debt, credit card debt, payday loan debt, and certain types of student loan debt and then simply do away with it. You could even buy debt based on zip codes, targeting the poorest communities. Watch for more information after November 15th, 2012, or click here.
Occupy Faith is a decentralized movement, applying to anyone who recognizes the divine call to economic justice in all our communities. So in addition to the suggestions outlined above, we are asking for your sermons, and papers, and op-eds on debt and economic justice; as well as your bright ideas, and bold experiments on building new solutions in your local context. So others can be inspired by your witness and learn from best practices, write to us atoccupyfaithNYC@gmail.com and share what you are saying and doing in your local community.
If you agree with us that a new kind of religious conversation is called for around money, debt, and power, please consider forwarding this invitation within your own networks.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Occupy Movement here in NYC has been on the ground round the clock coordinating mutual aid for those most impacted by the storm. But there is still much work to be done, and resources are especially needed. So here at Occupy Faith we are reaching out to all faith communities for resources. Specifically we are looking for any/all dry goods, bottled water, flashlights, blankets, and batteries of all shapes and sizes (but especially for flashlights). These should all be delivered by mail or in person to one of the following two locations:
Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew
520 Clinton Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Between the hours of 10a-6p
In Manhattan: Judson Memorial Church
239 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012
Between the hours of 10a-6p
In addition, materials and volunteers, can meet up to coordinate with Occupy Sandy Relief at: Jacobi Church
Intersection of 4th Ave & 54th Street
Brooklyn (Sunset Park), NY
Between the hours of 10a-4p
IMPORTANT NOTE: there is a special need for EMT workers, doctors, nurses (any health care professionals) and liscensed social workers. All such volunteers should call immediately to 303.961.6072 (the Occupy Sandy bank number).
Let us remember to keep everyone impacted by this storm in our thoughts and prayers throughout this difficult time.
December 8, 12:30-4pm
Occupy Catholics and friends will gather near Trinity Church for a speak on out debt and radical Christianity. For details on the location of the assembly and the sleepover click here.
November 15 at 8:00 PM The People’s Bailout, a variety show and telethon to benefit the 99% with Janeane Garofalo, Lizz Winstead, Max Silvestri, Hari Kondabolu, David Rees, The Yes Men, John Cameron Mitchell, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, Climbing Poetree, the Invisible Army of Defaulters, members of Healthcare for the 99%, Occupy Faith and many more. Read more.
It’s time democracy works on this issue for over a million workers and their families. For this to happen, we need everyone’s voices to rise—and more than ever we need faith leaders to exercise their prophetic voices and establish their moral authority on this crucial and urgent issue.
One way you can help is by signing on to the faith letter here. As you sign on and augment the power of our collective voice, our hope is that we can together plan the next action steps in raising up the voice of faith, starting with the delivery of (ideally the letter the week of October 29th).
Reflecting On What We Did: Occupy Faith and The Occupy Birthday
By Bishop George Packard
“Flexibility” is the phrase I’d apply to the Occupy Faith response to the OWS anniversary weekend of 15-17 September. On Saturday, the 15th, through our “A People’s Investigation” format convened at Washington Square we had intended to circulate among the crowd at the Town Square Meeting after a big announcement. We worked from an information table in a bazaar-like atmosphere opposite the fountain. [Read more. Watch video.]
A People’s Investigation of Money, Debt and Power (API)
Next Meeting Tuesday, October 2 at 5:30
Judson Memorial Church
We are excited to announce that the API team played an active role in S15–Occupy Wall Street’s pop-up occupation of Washington Square Park on September 15th. During this lively day of assemblies and cross-issue organizing, we announced API, gave out flyers and buttons, talked with independent journalists, and conducted a story circle in which our team interviewed two people affected by the finanical crisis and deeply upset by current conditions in America. API will be moving forward this month with trainings, web-site development, discussions about our internal decision-making structure, consultation with the Occupy Faith visioning work group, trainings, and outreach to faith leaders and other movement allies.
Occupy Faith’s Vision – a draft
In preparation for S17, OccupyFaith NYC’s visioning workgroup drafted a statement intended to guide our work going into the future. The statement was read at the Red Cube meet up, and will be finalized at an upcoming OF general meeting.
“Occupy Faith sets forth a moral and faith-based imperative for the Occupy movement. We heed the voice crying in the American wilderness for justice; we have a heart for the poor, the powerless, the disenfranchised; we uphold the laborer of every class in the value and righteousness of her or his labor; and we summon the American conscience to stand up for equality and social and economic justice for all.”
Vigil on Thursday, September 27th 7pm at Barclays Center.
Brooklyn Clergy with Brooklyn Speaks, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Fifth Avenue Committee, Families United for Racial & Economic Equality and many others gather at the Barclasys Center to highlight the crime scene of broken promises, protecting corporate interests, and community betrayal. [Download flyer. Read NY Times article.]