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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Over 100,000 people have asked Governor Blanco to intervene on behalf of the Jena 6, young black men who are getting a dose of Jim Crow justice in the small Louisiana town of Jena. On September 20, the first convicted teen-ager, Mychal Bell, is scheduled to be sentenced for a trumped up charge against which his court-appointed lawyer did not even offer a defense. If you have not expressed your concern about this matter to the governor and district attorney, go to colorofchange.org and add your name to the list of those who are standing with the families of the six accused young men. You can learn more about the case by following links there and in an earlier post in my blog.
Public housing ought to be for the public. One of the strangest developments after Hurricane Katrina was the closing and fencing of public housing developments. These multistory buildings sometimes had flood damage in the lower floors, but upper floors escaped with relatively little damage. Upper levels of two-story or three-story apartment buildings could have been partially rehabilitated with relative ease, leaving time to finish the rehabilitation of the lower floors as additional residents could find jobs and return. Instead, the powers-that-be chose to lock the gates on public housing, assist homeowners and not renters, and waste the taxpayers' investments at a time when they are greatly needed.

Colorofchange.org is addressing this issue by supporting U.S. Senate action on HR 1227, which would fund repair and opening of minimally damaged public housing units. The quotation below is partly written by colorofchange.org (first two paragraphs) and partly personalized by me. It is an important concern for New Orleans. Some people clearly do not want the low-income residents to return. That makes no sense in a hospitality and service oriented economy like New Orleans. Home ownership is a goal many of us want to pursue through groups such as Habitat for Humanity, but in the meantime, renters need a decent place to live.

Dear Senators Vitter and Landrieu,

Last month the House of Representatives passed HR 1227--the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007. It promises to reopen desperately needed public housing units and ensure that there is no loss of affordable public housing in New Orleans. HR 1227's passage is critical if the idea that all New Orleanians, regardless of race or class, are welcomed home is to be meaningful.

Now that the bill is in the Senate, your leadership is critical. Several senators are behind the bill, but they have said that without the senators from Louisiana in the lead, the bill will go nowhere. As a concerned American, I’m asking that you show leadership and urge the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to take up HR 1227, immediately.

I have been to the Central City to assist pastors such as Rev. Aldon Cotton of Jerusalem Baptist Church, Rev. Marvin Turner of Mt. Ararat Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Donald Boutte of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church, and Rev. Sam Johnson of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church No. 2. I have seen the need for housing, and I have seen the empty housing units. This is a great waste of the taxpayers' investment in that property and those housing units. Low-income renters need a place to stay in New Orleans that is not trashy and flood-damaged. This bill could go far in helping to meet that need. Recovery in New Orleans can't happen without recovery for everyone.

Please support immediate Senate action on HR 1227.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

We take our highway bridges for granted. I know I do. When I got word that pastor Doug Donley and his congregation in Minneapolis are safe from the terrifying bridge collapse there yesterday, I thought again about how quickly so much can be lost. I was able to talk with pastors from New Orleans who a brief two years ago found out that we can't take for granted that our congregations will even be in the same city the next day if a big enough storm and a big enough failure of infrastructure occurs.

As one article I read pointed out, thousands of miles apart along the Mississippi we can see the results of cutting corners and playing the odds with human lives. The levee failures in New Orleans and the bridge failure in Minneapolis had become more and more likely to happen. The game of how much risk can we take for how long seems to be leading to deadly consequences.

I've listened for three decades to the attacks on the public services the national government owes to its people. The attacks get coded by race. Anecdotes of extreme cases get publicized. People of all sorts get demonized as wasters of the taxpayers' hard-earned money. But as the time goes on, the legislators and executives run out of things to cut. But because the momentum of cutting taxes gets them elected, they keep on cutting essential services.

A certain segment of the population feels good about the tax cuts when they don't feel the pinch. If a few people across town have dilapidated housing, no health benefits, and can't afford an education, that seems to be the price of building the economy. But nobody is safe from a levee break. Nobody who needs to cross the Mississippi River can avoid using a bridge. The odds would tell us that if we risk too much too long, we will eventually have to face some losses. But the euphoria of beating down the tax and spend liberals blinds people to the reality of the kind of society they are helping to create.

We must hope and work so that bridge and levee maintenance can be completed in time to avoid more disastrous events such as those in Minneapolis and New Orleans.

May God be with the families who suffer in Minneapolis this week.
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