Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Regina's Journey to Now

2009 Holy-day Appeal
Dear NY Faith & Justice Friends and Family,

This is the second of two emails this month with a snapshot of our work and an appeal for your partnership. This time last year, we were $20,000 down. This year we expect to enter 2010 at $0. It's been an extremely tough year for grants, but we know that if every person who received this email gave just $50 we could fund every initiative we have planned for 2010!

As you spend hours traveling to be with family and friends, we want you to remember Regina's Journey and consider how your small gift could be a huge gift for her community in 2010.

I met Regina on January 17, 2007. I am honored, now, to introduce you to her. Meet Regina Howard-Norman. Meet an oak of justice.

Regina Howard-Norman
Regina's Journey to Now
In her own words...

Before January 17, 2007 I was a stay at home mother of 4, engaged with my children's educational growth. I had volunteered to serve on the Community Educational Council (District 9) since 2004. I was an educated black woman with a Master's Degree. With all of this, its hard to explain why, but I could not see what I had to offer. I had no steady income, I was in a strained relationship that I was on the verge of giving up and I felt worthless and guilty for not doing more for myself, my children, and my partner.

Then on January 17 2007, I attended the Public Forum on Violence that took place at my church, Walker Memorial Baptist Church in the South Bronx. The community had gathered in response to the shooting of Sean Bell and four other New York City residents in late 2006. Rev. Derrick Boykin (Associate Minister, Walker Memorial and co-founder of NY Faith & Justice) called the community to respond to this crisis differently--through proactive justice.

I surprised myself at the conclusion of the Forum when I stood up and joined 9 other community members who walked forward and committed to be part of the solution. The seeds of Conversations for Change and my own transformation were planted that night.

Conversations for Change was absolutely empowering! For the first time in a long time I felt like my voice mattered as I joined community members and police officers in dialogue to name the problems and search for solutions.

Fast forward to December 2009 the changes in my life are nothing short of miracles:
  1. February 2007. I Started working with Dress for Success as the Bronx Branch Manager. WOW! In 2010 I will be with Dress for Success for 3 years and I have implemented several initiatives for our Bronx Branch Office.
  2. February 2009. The Conversations for Change-South Bronx Pilot launched five weeks of Conversation Circles with great results. 3 of my 4 children participated with me in the Conversation Circles and are serving on the 2010 planning committee.
  3. April 2009. I went with NY Faith & Justice to Washington D.C. to speak to congressional representatives on behalf of under-resourced neighborhoods regarding separate and unequal health care!
  4. October 2009. I married the love of my life--Big Miracle!
  5. Earlier this month, I spoke about Conversations for Change in front of the New York Clergy Task Force at 1 Police Plaza.
  6. I am currently helping to organize our February 2010 Round of South Bronx Conversations for Change
  7. And I am now a member of We Are The Bronx Fellowship, a coalition of senior and middle managers from diverse organizations in the Bronx.
Who would have thought three years ago that this is where I would be now. Only God knows where I'll be in another three years.

~ Regina Howard-Norman


Your gifts make real transformation happen. Have faith. Do justice in 2010. Click on these links or scroll down to see ways your gifts can fan the flames of this kind of transformation in neighborhoods and lives like Regina's in 2010.

Happy Holy-Days!

Lisa Sharon Harper
Co-founder and Executive Director
New York Faith & Justice

Friday, December 18, 2009

FRESH Initiative Reception Video

On Monday, December 7th, a broad coalition of community organizations, unions, and city officials (known as the Good Food Good Jobs coalition) came together at the New School to celebrate the the passing of the new FRESH initiative for NYC. NY Faith & Justice was a part of this coalition and played a large role in this celebration.

The New School has posted a new video of the entire reception. See NYFJ Faith Community Organizer Christopher Muller perform a spoken word to open the ceremony (at the 1:25 mark) and Executive Director Lisa Sharon Harper deliver the invocation (at the 7:25 mark). Later in the video you can see the entire speech that NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delivered in which she announced her new Food Works Program (at the 51 min mark).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

National Book Launch!

Rediscovering Values, by Jim Wallis
Thursday, January 7, 2010

Special: Concert w/ Joy Ike @ 6:30pm

Program begins @ 7pm
The Riverside Church
490 Riverside Drive
Free Admission

Pre-Registration and Early Arrival
by 6pm is Strongly Advised

Click Here to Register Now

Featuring Jim Wallis, singer/songwriter Joy Ike, and a diverse panel of local and national leaders representing labor, finance, social justice, and ethics will raise the volume on a timely national conversation on money and values.

In Rediscovering Values Wallis challenges the status quo of a society that rewards bailed-out bankers with huge bonuses and a nation that celebrates the Dow returning to 10,000 while the unemployment rate climbs past 10%-and in some cases, like Wallis' hometown of Detroit, closer to 30%. Wallis believes this crisis has afforded us an incredible opportunity to shore up the very pillars of our society. Instead of asking when this crisis will be over, Wallis wants us to ask, "How will this crisis change us?"

Advance registration is strongly encouraged for this event. Click the button above or paste this link into your browser to register today:

Please contact Chris at or call 212.870.1254 for more information.

Mark your calendars and Follow us on our blog, Facebook, or twitter for updates.

O Mary Don't You Weep: 2009 Holy-Day Appeal...and Updates

Last week, I sat in a "segregation cell" (solitary confinement) at the Elizabeth, NJ Detention Center, a minimum security prison. Immigrants without papers, picked up at JFK or off the street, or taken from their families without warning during raids, mark time in cinder-block cells behind bars. They are not criminals. They look like you and me, just replace the suit or the jeans, sweater, and colorful scarf with a standard issue blue jumpsuit. "Everyone is equal here," said our guide, the Homeland Security officer who overseas operations at the prison.

I sat in the segregation cell--the place where women and men are held if they try to steal an extra piece of cake--and I imagined what it would be like to spend the average stay--2 days. I could not. I could not imagine two hours. I looked to my left. On the cot, where the prisoner would lay his head, fingernails or forks had etched evidence of humanity: "Cuba 2007 Habana," "Albania," "Guinea Africa 2003," "Astrit Delaj Bajze," "Cuba 2007."

Across the room, next to the door, was a crude warped mirror. So thin it looked like it was taped to the wall over a simple sink. I stared at my reflection in solitary confinement... then... in front of my face, but hidden from plane view, I looked beyond myself and I found evidence of humanity etched into the mirror.

"It's not finished yet," an nameless immigrant wrote, "Be strong. God love you. You don't believe that this is bad there are things more bad."

Immigrants' Detention, by Lisa Sharon Harper

We passed by the "outdoor recreation facility." It is a cinder-block room with a caged roof. This is the only place the immigrants can breath fresh air and see the color of the sky between the wires of this crude cage.

As we passed by the Property Room, tears filled my eyes. Fully packed suitcases--the kind you see on airport baggage claim conveyor belts--stood upright, lay on their sides, lay face down... abandoned on steel shelves.

As we passed the women, young ladies; white, black, latino, Asian they sat behind glass like fish in a bowl... They looked down, avoiding eye-contact.

As we passed by the exit, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) had yesterday's stock price proudly posted on the bulletin board: "20.22." I wept.

The men and women behind detention center walls know something about the season of Advent... they know something about waiting... waiting in darkness... waiting for light...waiting.

The tour was organized by the Interfaith Center of New York and Human Rights First for members of the NY State Interfaith Immigration Reform Network. NY Faith and Justice serves on the Steering Committee of this incredible Network. Get ready for 2010! In February we will join faith leaders across the state and the nation in a massive campaign to reform America's broken immigration system.

We hope you will join us.

In the meantime, don't you weep! Have hope, share faith, give love.

And click on these links or scroll down for practical ways you can be an agent of light in dark days:

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. And don't forget to follow us on
twitter, facebook, the nyfj blog or the nyfj calendar for up to the minute action alerts, program changes, and details.

In Solidarity!

Lisa Sharon Harper
Co-founder and Executive Director
New York Faith & Justice

NY Faith & Justice Wish List

Your gifts are holy. They fuel work that is helping to light up our city.
  • $50 membership gift provides basic office supplies like paper, ink cartridges, and phone bills.
  • $75 maintains web-based communications.
  • $100 provides a new NY Faith & Justice banner for events and rallies.
  • $150 Pizza dinner for one Conversation for Change circle for 5 weeks.
  • $250 enables us to host one Faith Leaders for Environmental JusticeBreakfast.
  • $500 allows us to purchase 5 "flip" video cameras for interns and volunteers to capture the stories of people practicing Just Love in 2010 and Oaks of Righteousness rising up in our city!
  • $1000 purchases one new HP laptop for our Executive Director -- after 5 years with the same laptop.
  • $2000 enables a full redesign of our website!
  • $3200 purchases three new HP desktop computers for our office. For the past three years everyone has had to provide their own laptops. We're at the stage now where we really need a self-sufficient office.
  • $4000 allows us to mount a YouTube Video campaign to aid the coming Immigration Reform push of Spring '10.
  • $5000 provides Faith-Rooted Organizing training for NY Faith & Justice interns, volunteers, and board.
  • $10,000 helps launch Conversations for Change in the South Bronx, Central / East Harlem, or East New York.
  • $10,000 helps us dedicate organizers to our Food and Climate Justice initiatives.
  • $25,000 helps our executive director to dedicate 100% of her time to the work of movement building in New York.
And of course there are new initiatives we can take on for sums greater than these.

There are many ways you can give to the work of NY Faith & Justice. Our work depends on volunteers. Pitch in and donate a few hours a week to do data entry or file some files. Donate artwork (paintings, photographs, posters) to help our office space tell the story of our mission. Or join a committee or a team of organizers and be our hands and feet across the city. And if you live upstate and have a heart for immigration reform, you can help us organize there!

Happy holy-days!

House Gatherings!!

Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice

Sign the NYC Sustainable Food Pledge

Plus, check out the final draft of the
NYC Food Charter
10 Principles for a Sustainable Food System

Click here to View the NYC Food Charter

New York City currently has a long-term plan for sustainability that includes water, energy, air, transportation, land use, and climate change. Not bad! BUT, there is NO PLAN FOR FOOD.

Food was the first thing God provided for humanity in the Genesis story of Creation. It is a basic human need and a basic human right. So, in this case "Not bad," ain't good enough.

For the past year, NY Faith & Justice has served on Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's subcommittee to draft this Food Charter and Pledge. Now, your signature on the NYC Sustainable Food Pledge will communicate to the Mayor and City Council that New Yorkers want a just and sustainable food system that benefits all.

Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice is a diverse collaborative network of faith leaders committed to making deep impact on issues of environmental justice in New York City through coordinated collective action.

Conversations for Change

Mark your Calendar!
February 4 - March 18, 2010

picasso spirit dove

Violence = No Safety
No Trust = No Safety
Broken Community = No Safety
Broken Systems = No Safety

No Safety => No new Business => Fewer Jobs => Poverty

Join the Conversation.
Be the Change.

Check out NEW Video from
the September Organizing Training Event!

South Bronx Conversations for Change will Kick-off on February 4th and launch weekly small group conversation circles between police and community members February-March 2010.

To Register for a Conversation Circle in your neighborhood contact us or call 212.870.1254. Send your name, address, police precinct (if known), organization/church affiliation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lisa Sharon Harper's Balkan Talk on Shalom

NY Faith & Justice Executive Director Lisa Sharon Harper attended the "Renewing Our Minds" gathering this past summer in Fuzine, Croatia. As a part of the gathering, Ms. Harper presented a talk on Shalom. Tihomir Kukolja has recently put a full recording of the talk on his blog.
Check it out here!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sounds of 350

On Dec. 13, at 3 p.m. in Copenhagen, during the Climate Change Summit, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will ring the bells of the Lutheran Cathedral 350 times. This is a warning for all that, according to scientists, 350 p.p.m. is the safe amount of CO2 in the atmosphere for humans. We are currently at 387 p.p.m. The World Council of Churches has put out a call for faith communities worldwide to ring bells, chimes, drums, gongs, or horns at 3 p.m. on the 13th in solidarity with this goal of reducing our carbon emmissions to 350 p.p.m.

Here in Manhattan, the Church of the Holy Trinity's Peace and Restorative Justice Community will ring Holy Trinity's carillon bells 350 times at noon, immediately following the church's main Sunday service. There will be tunes in addition to tolling: "White Coral Bells," "America the Beautiful," and "I've Got Peace Like a River." On the sidewalk in front of the church, Community members will distribute flyers to neighbors as well as to parishioners to explain the action.

Across Central Park, Riverside Church is also planning to toll its bells 350 times at 3 p.m. The main service will feature a sermon by Rev. Arnold Thomas that will discuss the warning the bell-ringing is meant to convey.

Both churches are active in the New York City coalition of Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice.

**submitted Susan Valdes-Dapena and the Church of the Holy Trinity - Peace & Restorative Justice Community, an organizational partner of NY Faith & Justice

Monday, December 7, 2009

Celebration for a FRESH Start

The Good Food, Good Jobs Coalition held it's Celebration of the FRESH Initiative reception this morning in the jam packed Wollman at the New School. The program is expected to pass on Wednesday when the City Council holds it's final vote. NY Faith & Justice, who was a part of the Good Food, Good Jobs Coalition this coalition, was well represented at the gathering.

Christopher Muller, NYFJ Faith Community and Arts Coordinator, started off the gathering sharing a spoken word. He expressed the need to have a just food system that worked for and improved the lives of all people from "the governed to the governor."

Following Mr. Muller was NY Faith & Justice Co-founder and Executive Director Lisa Sharon Harper. She echoed his sentiments and called on the creator to help the FRESH Initiative become a success as she delivered the invocation.

Several other members of the Good Food, Good Jobs Coalition spoke at the reception including Bruce Both, President fo the United Farm and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, Peggy Shepard, Executive Director and Founder of We Act for Environmental Justice. Chef Dan Barber, owner of Blue Hill Restaurant, also spoke of the need to reconnect with food and develop a more sustainable food program.

The keynote speaker of the event was New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Speaker Quinn highlighted the importance of the creation of comprehensive food system reform and touted a new "Food Works" Initiative for the creation of a just and sustainable food system. She claimed that not only would this improve the health and food quality for all New Yorkers but would also boost the New York economy. She used lettuce as an example.

Several New York City schools have started including salad bars as an option for students. In order to provide this, there is a great need for romaine lettuce. Unfortunately, almost all of the lettuce used in the schools is imported from the West Coast. Speaker Quinn mentioned that several New York farmers that grow Romaine lettuce would be interested in selling to the schools. The problem is that the city does not have the ability to wash, cut, and bag the produce.If the infrastructure is set up to provide this service then students would be receiving fresher produce and new jobs would be created as well.

This morning, however, was to intended to celebrate the FRESH Initiative and getting fresh and affordable produce into low income neighborhoods. If the turnout to the reception is linked to the success of the program, then the City can look forward to a successful and beneficial fresh start.