Friday, October 30, 2009

Brooklyn House Gathering

This week's House Gathering is coming to Brooklyn. The Radical Living Hart House is hosting our second gathering of year on Saturday which gives you a chance to start your Halloween holiday off by meeting and greeting other New Yorker's concerned about justice. 

Looking forward to seeing you there!

SATURDAY, October 31, 11am-1pm

@ The Radical Living Hart House

32 Hart Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206
map it

A Voice Cries From the City

A Spoken Word Poem

by Christopher Muller aka Christopher Cero

Words, words, words...

We use words to paint a picture.  A picture to tell a story.  A story to stir your thoughts and emotional inventory.  But basically there are no basics, not really any rhyme nor reason just the reality of the season whether it’s warm or freezin’ I need to express how I’m feeling.  

Now I apologize if I have to make a scene, but it seems nowadays people would rather talk to their friends through a digital screen. Rather update their facebook then to look me in my face. Are we afraid of an actual conversation that’s not mediated by artificial information?

We might need to refocus our span of attention and what we’re giving all the glory ‘cuz I’m tired of rereading the same story of who we’re ignoring.  “A refugee without a home, a homeless man without a meal; an immigrant thrown in prison a child forced to steal.”  Are we confined to an academic frame of mind, busy preoccupied with reading between the lines forgetting to check the margins; never asking the question, “Why are the same people still starving?”

As it reads, 1 Corinthians 12:13- “Jew or Greek, slaves or free, many members but only one body”.  But are we so worried about individual member distinction that our whole body is headed for imminent extinction?  Because Paul said, “there shall be no dissension...

((Meaning—if a part of the body suffers, we suffer... If the hand, then the foot...  Sorry if this gets annoying, but Paul’s trying to communicate it’s ourselves we’re destroying.  Because if it’s in “one body in which we reside”, by ignoring my neighbor to death, am I committing a holy suicide...???...))

So are we many members in one, or a body that’s come undone?  A city in union, or a state of mass confusion?  Are we lifting up the weak or disposing of the meek; unbalanced and off-kilter, without a truth filter?  Petrified to look the “other” in the eye because we’re afraid of what we might see.  That we’re not so different—you and me.  

I’m afraid to say so, but it looks like all systems may not be a ‘GO’, due to a malfunction of the parts, we must go back to the start to discover peace and harmony or we’re just pieces doing harm, gridlocked on the FDR while St. Paul’s sounding the alarm!

‘cuz in Jesus’ view, he gives us no choice to choose who we love or refuse; but instead we abuse and defuse the goodness of the good news and blaspheme its meaning so we don’t have to love anyone who doesn’t look like you or dress like me.  Unconsciously subtracting the man out the human.  The son out the person.  Taking the creator out of creation. 

I think it might be time to try a new Diet, a “Truth” Detox, to take Jesus’ limp, lame, and defamed name out the Proverbial Box. ‘Cuz I think the Christian shape is a little overweight.  Exercising our evangelical mouths, while our faith actively parks its butt on the couch.  

Because whatever we’re doing something’s not working, so what God are we worshipping?  It begs the question, have we bought into the Immaculate Deception?  Is it time to take the health-and-wealth-gospel-of-self and throw it off the shelf and find the BIBLE that reads “love God and your neighbor as yourself.”

So let’s not just “Let It Be” but let us co-author the future, a new history. A story of love, grace, and truth, INDEED—a TRUE STORY.  Some say a revolution, but I say a blood transfusion. An injection of the Real Jesus. God’s Son. The resurrection. He is the fire and the arson. Igniting the light for a community of compassion, racial reconciliation, New York city’s transformation, and justice for all creation.

That’s every part of this body...

That’s you. That’s me. The immigrant and the refugee. The homebound and homeless. The healthy and the sick. The widow and the orphan. The poor and the rich man. The cripple and the leper. The oppressed and the oppressor.

Because together we live or together we die.  Oh YES, together we are dying, or together we are living... so may His Kingdom come on Earth, as it is in Heaven.

**Chris is the Faith Community Organizer and Arts Coordinator for NY Faith & Justice

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Will Our City's Next Leaders Do About Poverty, Hunger, and Homelessness?

The NYC Coalition Against Hunger and other collaborating organizations are inviting candidates for NYC Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate to reveal their plans to address the problems of hunger, poverty, and housing.  This is the only such forum before the elections. Bill De Blasio, John Liu, Alex Zablocki, and Joe Mendola will be attending. 

Date:  Thursday, Oct. 29th
Time:  4:00PM
  Trinity Church Wall Street
            74 Trinity Place (between Rector and Thames St.) 
            2nd Fl.

Take the R / W to Rector, the 4 / 5 to Wall St., or the J / M / Z to Broad St.   (Click here for map)

To RSVP, contact Kerry Birnbach at or 212.825.0028 ext. 212.

Please see the attached flier for more details.  

See you there!

The Blessing of Justice

by Stephen Tickner

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.

-Matthew 5:6

It was the last straw in a week of contemplation and argument. The last straw, in the form of a simple statement made by a disarmingly sweet woman working as a security guard in the Cincinnati airport, that coalesced the various stars of thoughts into one bright burning sun.  

“How are you?” I said dryly yet respectably, as any good middle-American born boy would who was not expecting a response.

“I am highly favored and blessed!” She responded cheerfully.

BAM! Those words - “I”, “favored”, “blessed” - and the sentiments around them crystallized the message I feel I was to receive during the 2009 Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference.  

It’s not an accident that I went to this particular conference.  It’s also not an accident that this was the year they put a high focus on advocacy and action.  It is the continuation of a series of events recently that have occurred in my life. Each leading me further down the same road - the road for justice.

I realize the word “justice” in recent months and years has become a bit watered down.  It’s a popular subject right now and when things gain in popularity they often lose some weight.  

On the other hand, the focus on justice gives people and communities, who would have never known about certain issues, a chance to learn about the prevalence of oppression occurring in our own back yard.  

Things like the level of toxic dumping and existence of food deserts in our nations poor and minority neighborhoods, families being torn apart because of our nation’s inconsistent and harmful immigration laws, and the practice of racially targeted predatory lending that occurred before the housing crisis.  These are just a few examples of the type of oppression that faith communities, especially the more conservative middle and upper-class evangelical and mainline communities, are being introduced to because of the renewed focus on justice.

But because of this renewal and because oppressive systems are becoming easier to see, we now have a choice to make.  In recent years, the North American church has moved away from the teachings of Jesus in regards to seeking justice.  With the rise and prevalence of the “mega-church”, middle and upper-class churches have mimicked their secular counterparts and run themselves like a Fortune 500 company.  Consequently, a major focus has been placed on the individual aspect of Christianity and it’s “live the best life now” quality.  Too often we sell the gospel as if it was a winning lottery ticket – the thing that will help us live a life of comfort and fulfillment without worry as long as we follow a few moral rules. 

What we have forgotten is the communal aspect of Jesus’ message and the over two-thousand biblical verses about helping the poor and oppressed.  And now, we are being shown vivid examples of current day oppression.  We can no longer claim ignorance.  We must choose whether to live using Jesus’ life and teaching as our example or worry about the bottom line and losing congregants.

So too with those of us that make up the church.  Too often we, including myself, treat church like a spiritual Exxon station.  We expect to be filled up with “the spirit” and don’t really want to be challenged.  If our pastor takes a controversial stand, we're likely to leave the church or hire a new pastor that will leave controversy behind and just make us feel good.  It is this reminder of Christian narcissism that hit me when the woman stated she was favored and blessed.  

Fortunately, there are exceptions.  For example, if you’ve done any research on Sanctuary churches along the U.S.-Mexican border and the people behind them, you get an excellent example of a church living out Jesus’ message. It is a brilliant example of individuals putting personal concerns aside and uniting as the “body” to help their fellow human beings who are made in the image of God.  It is churches and individuals like these that give me hope that their spirit will spread like a wildfire throughout the North American church. 

It also gives me hope that thousands of members of “the Body” would come together at conferences like CCDA to learn knew ways to live out the Christian call to justice. We have plenty of paths to follow and huge shoes to fill.  It is people like William Wilberforce, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day that have shown us what is possible and we have present-day leaders like Rev. John Perkins who have laid a roadmap we can follow.

Maybe if American churches begin to follow these examples of faith—maybe then, one day, we will all be able to triumphantly say “WE are highly favored and blessed.” 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lisa Sharon Harper's Testimony to City Hall

New York City Council

Zoning and Franchises Sub-committee Hearing on F.R.E.S.H

City Hall, October 26, 2009

Testimony of Lisa Sharon Harper

Co-founder and Executive Director of NY Faith & Justice

Honorable City Council members, thank you for this opportunity to address the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee today regarding the city’s proposed F.R.E.S.H program. 


My name is Lisa Sharon Harper.  I am the co-founder and executive director of NY Faith & Justice.  NY Faith & Justice is a collaborative network of individuals, churches, and organizations dedicated to ending poverty in New York.  Our network reaches nearly 1400 New Yorkers and others across the nation. Among them, approximately 150 faith leaders from all five boroughs and surrounding suburbs of New York City participate in the Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice initiative, a diverse network of inter-faith leaders and advocates committed to leveraging its collective influence in partnership with communities suffering under the weight of environmental injustice.  Today, we stand with the coalition of labor unions, food justice advocates, community based organizations and borough presidents calling for good food and good jobs standards to be attached to F.R.E.S.H. program participation.

On November 5, 1984, our city passed a law with the best of intentions.  Local Law No. 71 created the Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program (ICIP), now the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP).  Among the many intended benefits of ICIP was the creation of jobs in low-income areas as the law paved the way for chain stores to enter under-resourced neighborhoods.  Fast food establishments took advantage of this program and now line the corridors of low-income communities.  Supermarkets were ineligible for ICIP/ICAP.

The 1984 City Council had good intentions, but history has revealed a plethora of problems in its wake.  The council provided jobs, but demonstrated no concern for these communities’ access to healthy food.  The result?  

40% of new cases of Type 2 diabetes cases in Central and East Harlem are children, according to a recent report issued by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  NOTE: Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in adults 40 years and older.  61% percent of people in under-resourced neighborhoods are obese.  Fast food establishments and pharmacies now line the streets of poor areas while supermarkets are closing.  What’s worse, the ICAP strategy only brought a marginal number of good jobs to targeted neighborhoods.


Now, the current economic downturn is exacerbating the unemployment disparity between black and white New Yorkers.  According to a July 12, 2009 report by the New York Times, “Job Losses Show Wider Racial Gap in New York,” the unemployment rate among blacks is rising 4 times faster than among whites in our city.  Who is being hit the hardest?  The residents of neighborhoods targeted by the F.R.E.S.H. program are.

Consider this:  In a September 23, 2009 New York Times report, “A Plan to Add Supermarkets to Poor Areas, With Healthy Results,” Whole Foods executive Christina Minardi voiced interest in the F.R.E.S.H. program.  “It’s definitely enticing for us,” she said. 

I ask you; without good jobs guaranteed, will the residents of F.R.E.S.H. target neighborhoods really have access to the high-priced fruit and vegetables offered by stores like Whole Foods?  Most likely, they will not.  With no job standards attached to the F.R.E.S.H. program there is no guarantee these stores will hire from the community.  There is also no assurance that unscrupulous stores will not take advantage of F.R.E.S.H. communities by targeting residents for low wage jobs.  More likely, residents will be priced out of the only fresh food being offered in their neighborhoods and unregulated stores will trigger accelerated gentrification and displacement of the very people the F.R.E.S.H. program intends to help.  Good jobs would put money into the hands of residents, making it possible for them to buy the food offered by F.R.E.S.H. markets.

The 1984 City Council passed policy that provided jobs without good food.  History is revealing the repercussions of their vote.  Today, this Council considers another proposal with good intentions. This time it offers food with no guarantee of good jobs.  The members and organizational partners of New York Faith & Justice urge you not to make the same mistake as your predecessors. Not now.  Not when the cost would be so real, so quick, and so dire for people already hurting so much.

Good food without good jobs is not enough. At best it is charity.  At worst it is a tease and a Trojan horse for accelerated gentrification and the displacement of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.  With the real threat of gentrification bearing down on F.R.E.S.H. target communities, the Council must go beyond charity.

You have an opportunity today.  Supermarkets naturally employ large numbers of staff.  Good food with good jobs attached can empower more people in F.R.E.S.H. target communities and lay the groundwork for a transformational kind of development—the kind that stabilizes at-risk communities from the inside out.  By attaching good food and good job standards to F.R.E.S.H., you have the opportunity to keep families in their homes while lifting the health and buying power of entire neighborhoods. 

Mahatma Ghandi said, "A society's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."  Cardinal Roger Mahony echoed Ghandi: “Any society is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members -- the last, the least, the littlest.” 

History will look back on this City Council.  She will judge you not by your good intentions, but by the effect of your policies on the last, the least, and the littlest in our city.  The 1984 Council had its watch.  This is your watch.  Take this opportunity to make things right.

We are praying for you and we are watching.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NY City Council to Hear Testimony on FRESH

Tomorrow morning at 9:30am, the City Council will conduct a hearing on the FRESH Program, a program that has been proposed to offer zoning and financial incentives for the development and expansion of supermarkets in high need communities.  This program is a direct result of major efforts by government agencies, residents, and food justice orgs to address the lack of healthy food choices available in neighborhoods with soaring rates of obesity and diabetes.

New York Faith & Justice will be one of these organizations giving testimony as to the need for local jobs to be attached to this program so these neighborhoods, which will have brand new supermarkets moving in, will not fall victim to gentrification.

Come stand in solidarity with NY Faith & Justice as we let our voice for the community be heard! 

Monday, October 26th
@ NY City Council

For information about the FRESH program click here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Return of the House Gatherings!!

The House Gatherings are back! On Saturday night, from 6 to 8pm, the Harlem House will host the first fall gathering of the year.  Come and hear about NY Faith & Justice's vision and initiatives as you meet and make friends with people from all over the city who care about justice. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Harlem House Gathering 
226 W. 138th St. (between 7th & 8th Ave)
Saturday, October 24th 
6 to 8pm

**Don't forget, the House Gatherings are also in Brooklyn (Oct. 31st) and Queens (Nov. 14) this year as well. Look for information on those gatherings as they get closer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


New York Interfaith Power & Light ( is co-sponsoring this all-day seminar for owners, managers, and users of historic religious properties, to be held on Thursday, October 22 at the Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy, 26 West 84th Street (between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West), New York, NY, from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm.

Space still available! Pre-registration required.Click here to register!

Religious institutions are treasured touchstones of strength, comfort andstability but the costs of heating, cooling and running the facilitiespresent tremendous challenges even to the most robust congregations and themost creative facilities managers.

"Green technology," "sustainability" and "energy efficiency" are frequently used buzz words that can leave caretakers of historic religious properties enthusiastic, confused about how to maintain their older buildings, or under the impression that "green" building is only for new construction. To ensurethat preservation basics are not lost, the New York Landmarks Conservancy,Episcopal Diocese of New York, New York Interfaith Power & Light andLandmark West! are presenting an all-day seminar: "Green Theology: Energy Efficiency and Historic Sacred Sites."

This seminar is designed for members of the clergy and congregants alike -to guide them as they strive to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and to reduce associated costs. This all day seminar will providea hands-on approach to maximize the energy efficiency of religious institutions by guiding participants through a complete, "basement to roof" energy analysis of religious institutions, including how to prioritize spending and plan for the future.

Speakers will include energy conservation expert Andrew Rudin, architect Page Cowley, Judith Erger of the Union for Reform Judaism, and case studiesfrom property managers who will provide valuable lessons on what has worked at their historic sacred sites.

Tickets will be $25 ($20 for additional registration from the same institution). The registration includes a boxed lunch. Please call 212.995.5260 for more information and to reserve a space. Click here for more information and to download a registration form.

This project has been funded in part by a grant from the Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.For more information on the sponsors, click here:

Episcopal Diocese of New York
Property Support
Landmark West! <>
National Trust for Historic Preservation
The New York Landmarks Conservancy<> New York Interfaith Power & Light <>

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bring Fresh Food to your Neighborhood

If you or someone you know might be interested in bringing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to your neighborhood, we invite you to attend our Starting a CSA Workshop. We will discuss ideas and information regarding how to start a CSA and answer questions such as, where to find a farmer, where to set up the distribution site, how to recruit members, etc. You could help build your community through CSA!
Fords Produce Company

Each workshop will be similar in content. The dates and location for the Starting a CSA workshops are as follows, with a new workshop date just added:

Day: Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Time: 6:00-7:30
Location: Just Food Conference Room (1155 Ave of the Americas, 3rd Floor)
*Workshop Just Added*
Day: Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Time:11:30am to 1:00 pm
Location: Just Food Conference Room (1155 Ave of the Americas, 3rd Floor)
To RSVP for a workshop, please e-mail Wen-Jay at
If you can not make it to one of these workshops but are hoping to start a
CSA for next season, please e-mail Paula at
We hope to see you there!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Vigil for Support of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

On Saturday, Oct. 10, from 7 to 8 p.m., the Church of the Holy Trinity (Epsicopal), 316 E. 88th St., between 1st and 2nd Avenues, will participate in the statewide Justice for Farmworkers Campaign, by hosting a vigil in support of the passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. 

This legislation would grant to farmworkers the same rights that have been guaranteed to all other workers (except domestics) since 1939!
--including overtime pay, the right to one day off per week, and the right to organize.

A member of the grocery workers' union (United Food and Commercial Workers 1500) and a member of WEACT for Environmental Justice of Harlem will comment briefly on injustices as the food moves from field to table--in the treatment of grocery workers and in the availability of affordable, fresh food in poor urban neighborhoods. 

Your support of this important issue would be greatly appreciated.



Across New York during the month of October

people from many different backgrounds will gather for


A Statewide Vigil


Farmworker Human Rights




In the 1930’s. . . . in the midst of the JIM CROW era. . . . farmworkers were excluded under New York Labor Law from the basic human rights including: a day of rest, overtime pay and protection while bargaining collectively.   Now in 2009 the New York State Senate can right this wrong, and all of New York can feel the freedom of the yoke of injustice being removed.






Albany area        Thursday, Oct. 15, 5:30-6:30 p.m.  (Outside the headquarters of the New York State

Farm Bureau, 159 Wolf Rd. in Colonie.)

Middletown         Friday, Oct 16th @ 6pm   (United Presbyterian Church 50 East Main St.

Former Webb Horton Church)

Millbrook             Friday, Oct. 16th @ 6pm  (Grace Episcopal Church, 3328 Franklin Ave)

New York City     Saturday, Oct. 17th @ 7pm (Holy Trinity Episcopal Church 316 E 88th St)

Monticello           Sunday, Oct. 18th @ 6pm (St. John's Episcopal Church 15 St John St.)

White Plains         Monday, Oct 19th @  7pm (St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church 82 Prospect St.

Ithaca                   Monday, Oct. 19th @ 5pm (First Baptist Church, Dewitt Park

Long Island           TBD   (Setauket)   For further information call the Rev Noelle Damico 631-371-9877

Rochester           Wednesday, Oct. 21st @ 7pm (St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, 15 St Mary’s Place)







For more information:  call Rural and Migrant Ministry 845-485-8627

or go to