by Michelle Wilson Bradley, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Economic equity, Education reform and immigration/intercultural equity were the three issues voted on by attendees at the MICAH Convention held this past Sunday at Lindenwood Christian Church, 2400 Union Ave.
“We are here to come together to build a powerful coalition that will speak truth to power and be a voice for those who have no voice in our community,” said Dr. Stacy Spencer, pastor of New Direction Church and President of MICAH.
MICAH (Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope) is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization formed 18 months ago. Its members consist of 40-plus partner organizations, including local churches, mosques, synagogues and other non-profits.
The diverse overflow crowd of well over 600 filled the sanctuary both upstairs and down. Multiple ethnic, cultural and age groups were present. The goal of the convention was to select three main issues from the ten issues previously agreed upon in neighborhood meetings.
Other issues weighted included child/youth development, criminal justice, health and mental care, housing and homelessness, livable neighborhoods, public transportation and violence.
During the convention, each of the 10 issues had a spokesman to champion the validity of supporting the cause. The Rev. Cetrea Jimerson of St. Andrew A.M.E. Church, spoke on economic equity and received a rousing reception when she gave statistics on the poverty rate of various groups in the city.
“Over 50 percent of African Americans and over 40 percent of Latinos and Hispanics in the area are living in poverty,” said Jimerson, noting that African Americans are three times more likely to be denied a loan at a financial institution.
Gina John of Latino Memphis addressed immigration.
“Every person should be welcome in Memphis regardless of their background,” John said.
Marcos Villa, vice president of Communications with MICAH, said the three selected issues will define the agenda for a year. Task forces for each issue were set up to develop the next steps to move forward on actions. Several meetings will be held through October 21 when a public meeting with elected officials is slated.
Beverly Robertson, former executive director of the National Civil Rights Museum, serves as fundraising co-chair.
“Transformative change needs power. We must organize people, plus raise money to have power,” she said.
MICAH follows the community organizing methodology of the Gamaliel Foundation, which has been employed in numerous other communities in U.S. One such example is Nashville, where NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) has staked its claim as an integral partner for change. MICAH’s strategy will be similar to NOAH’s, with the focus on the needs of the Memphis community.
(For more information, visit www.micahmemphis.org.)