A few summers ago in Detroit, a circle of high school students from a local church gathered with community organizer Monica Lewis-Patrick, executive director of the grassroots We The People of Detroit. The conversation flowed into what it looks like for faith to infuse political action when the odds are stacked against justice, freedom and equity. This is an excerpt.
All we have to do is start connecting the dots and telling the truth. When I started working in social justice, I was working in education, with children that were mentally impaired and extremely violent. What I found out really quickly was that the people at the table didn’t give a damn about the children. It was about the dollars. Because I cared about the children, I had to educate myself in terms of how I influence the policy—or the people who drive the policies—to help my people get the change they need. To help the children I served. That meant going to meetings where sometimes I would be the only one there speaking on behalf of the population that I thought was most vulnerable and most in need. Was I scared? Yes I was. Did I always get the language right? No I didn’t. Did I always have the data on hand that they had? No I didn’t. But it was out of my heart that I spoke. And then from there what would happen is that somebody would give me a card or somebody would say, “You know, I didn’t know that part” or “Can we talk?” And then I had to dig up from my spiritual history or family history and muster up enough energy to go meet with somebody that has a title—that seems to have power—and say to that person “We don’t like this.”