Birmingham Faith in Action
I am a spokesperson as well as a member of the media relations team of the new community activist organization, Birmingham Faith in Action. This seems a bit incongruous as I am most certainly not a person of faith, and the organization is very much faith-based. I came to be involved with the group because a representative visited my church and made a presentation dring the Sunday school hour. I was one of about fifteen that attended, and the only one in that particular meeting who followed up with the group.
Amanda Mullins, the representative, mentioned two issues the group felt was underserved in the city: the macing of school children, and the extortionist interest rates of payday lendors. I have some personal experience with payday loans. However, I do not have any children at this time. Still, I was shocked to learn about the situation in the Birmingham public schools. Birmingham has the highest incedents of macing by school resource officers (SROs), police officers, than any other city in America. None of the incidents involved a student with a weapon, or gang related activity.
With regard to payday lending, there are many distressing facts I could mention, but I will settle for just one: The fine state of Alabama deems it perfectly legitimate to allow these loan-sharks to charge up to 456% interest. These small, short-term loans do not end up being small, or short-term.
On Tuesday, May 8th, we held our first public action which packed the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Birmingham. We had several presenters, of which I was one. The energy level was high, but more importantly, the media presence was excellent. We got lead billing on television news, with outstanding print and radio media support leading up to the event.
As a result of that action, one of our proposals was put on the docket of the city counsel meeting the following week. We filled the front row of the counsel chamber to witness the passage of our proposal. Less than a week later, Police Chief Roper agreed to a meeting with us to discuss the problem with macing students, even though the department is currently being sued for that very issue. It was a meeting he refused to grant before our public action. He met us on our terms and in our place of choice. After a lengthy discussion. He agreed to every aspect of our proposal. We will be heading up a new commission to explore solutions to the problem.
Birmingham Faith in Action is an example of what can be accomplished when the walls of religion are ignored, or torn completely down. It is made up of a coalition of about 30 churches in the birmingham area. For such a cause, even we Unitarians are considered a church. 🙂
I thought it fit that I provide a more full account of what I have been up to lately. I’ve got to be one of the busiest, unemployed people around. While religious, I would have never been able to participate so fully in such an event. As a rational humanist, I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing Great things can happen when we give expression to the yearnings of our common humanity.