Today began with a debrief of last night's media training and planning for the day at the PICO "command center" at Eden Theological Seminary. The PICO organizers on the ground here are awesome: The Rev. Deth Im, the Rev. Nelson Pierce, and Tameka Bell. You can tell organizers are at work here!
Following the morning briefing, we split up with part of our team going to Washington University for an organizing meeting with student leaders there, and the other part went to a meeting of the Don't Shoot Coalition. Imam Abu and I attended the Coalition meeting. The Coalition brings together labor, the ACLU, social justice organizations and faith based groups in a joint response to the community needs brought to light by Michael Brown's death. More than 40 people were gathered for a weekly planning meeting.
The Coalition is laser focused on four strategic goals:
1. Justice for Michael Brown and other victims of police brutality
2. An end to racial profiling by police in the greater St. Louis area
3. Development of effective civilian police review boards
4. Transforming law enforcement agencies to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve
Meetings like this are not sexy, but this is the grunt work that sustains long-term, successful efforts to bring about positive social change. It requires a commitment to building relationships and a willingness to set aside personal and institutional agendas to achieve shared aims. At its best, it combines the passion of youth with the wisdom of hard won experience.
It is important for religious groups to be at the table. We can learn a great deal about the needs of our community by listening at these gatherings, and our presence alone communicates that we really care about the people we purport to serve. Together, we can mobilize power in the service of moral passion.