By Dr. Peggy Griffin
The newly formed Social Justice Task Force members squared their shoulders with a sense of accomplishment at the conclusion of the six- week workshop series, “Towards Justice and Human Rights” in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The final workshop on February 23rd drew record attendance for a presentation by WBEZ’s South Side Reporter, Natalie Moore. Ms. Moore sat without notes and intrigued the audience with a synopsis of her book, “A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation”. She spoke of the segregated pattern in housing and the cost of goods and services. Besides the standard statistics, she gave examples of her own home sale and her own comparison shopping for personal items. Discussions emerged as to how housing is related to schools, businesses, jobs, and politics; during the exchange of questions and answers with Natalie Moore.
Smiles remained from the previous session of merriment but yet inflaming thought in the “Economic Justice Simulation Game. The game was facilitated by Jay Larson and Sean Shell of NSBC. Participants planned budgets around small allotments, but they were interrupted by unforeseen incidents dramatized by Madison McClendon and Courtney Feiler. The elements of surprise, hilarity, and brain-teasing produced some gems of wisdom, useful in balancing household budgets and maybe even church budgets.
The Task Force broke the weekly sequence of workshops on February 9th for the Agape Feast, which followed our quarterly unity service. The word, ”Agape” means love in Greek. It is related to the fellowship meals in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. One scripture that sums up the meaning of the Agape Feast is Deuteronomy 12:7 “ And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your households together, rejoicing in all the undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” Love was put in action when Pastor Michael Ware explained that there was no order in how the food would be served. He asked everyone to create their own order. Everyone did, including small children and babies. One two-year-old showed the spirit of it all when he sat alone at a table as his family members gathered food. Differing from his usual vocal style, he smiled and waved his arms, entertaining himself peacefully until his seat mates returned.
Continuing the retrospective tour of the workshops, on February 2nd , we gathered information that will enable us to use greater wisdom in the voting process. Anna Gaebler of ONE Northside explained the Progressive Income Tax to us. We learned how the proposed tax will be income based, rather than tax with the same percentage for all. The progressive tax will increase budgets for schools and social services as well as decrease taxes for the working poor. After the workshop, many expressed interest in following up on this concept, and made oral commitments to inform others and prepare for the coming elections.
Martin Luther King Jr. was in Puerto Rico. Most of us were astounded to learn of the travels of the civil rights leader to this U.S. Territory. On January 26th, Pastor Juan Angel Gutierrez Rodriguez unveiled the little- known facts to us in his discourse on “Martin Luther King, Jr., Puerto Rico, and Colonialism”. He contends that King’s first public announcement about his position on the Viet Nam war was in Puerto Rico. We are grateful that he shared this valuable research with us and look forward to his soon to be published book on the topic.
In Steeple Stories Volume 22, Issue 1, there is a reflection on the first of our workshop series. On January 19th, Pastor Michael Ware gave a first- hand account of his civil rights pilgrimage. From this first workshop to the last on Feb. 23rd, the enthusiasm has remained high. The Social Justice Task Force is contemplating future actions.