“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR Memorial

I think I’ve attended all the annual conferences of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] since 1992. This year’s theme was again “Creating a Just Economy” — an appropriate and timely admonition. FDR’s test surely is not being pursued in the first 100 days of the Trump Presidency.

After my countless trips to DC, I finally made time to visit the memorials for Dr. King, FDR and Jefferson. A very reflective hike on which I found particularly relevant quotes at each stop – none using the word “huge.”

The above FDR quote was etched by a sculpture of Americans forgotten in the Great Depression. Not sure those Americans who suffered the injustice of our most recent Great Recession haven’t already been not only forgotten but abandoned by the White House and Congress despite their votes.

But “creating a just economy” is not just a matter of federal policy or tax reform. A just economy is threatened locally by every decision in our communities to forsake those who have too little affordable housing and insufficient employment to raise a family. Equitable development is imperative for a just economy.

Given the challenges confronting Chicago’s Uptown community, where I now work as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA]-USA, I volunteered to moderate the workshop at this year’s NCRC conference, entitled Equitable Development in Gentrifying Communities. The four panelists shared similar stories from Portland, OR; Roxbury, MA; New York City; and Washington, DC.

Empower DC’s mission is to enhance, improve and promote the self-advocacy of low and moderate income DC residents in order to bring about sustained improvements in their quality of life. The presentation by its Executive Director, Parisa Norouzi, included a historical ICA surprise for me. The historic Ivy City community is re-establishing a strong Civic Association around several issues including the restoration of the Alexander Crummell School. Named for abolitionist, educator and clergyman Rev. Doctor Alexander Crummell whose life’s mission was the uplift of Black people, it was the first public school for African Americans in DC when it opened in 1911.

Ivy City was chosen in 1976 as a site for one of the Human Development Projects initiated by the Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA) along with other such initiatives across all 24 global time zones that became known as the “Band of 24.” Two ICA organizers moved into the Ivy City community who, following ICA’s participation model, assisted the community with developing and carrying out a four year Human Development plan. From 1976-1980, ICA and neighborhood residents created the Ivy City Preschool and the Ivy City Corporation (ICCO), which promoted commerce in the community. All activities were centered at the Crummell School, which had been closed in the ‘70s, and were documented in the Ivy City Voice, a newsletter which was published during that time.

More recently, the school building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and listed as one of DC’s Most Endangered Places by the DC Preservation League in 2013. Crummell abandonedResidents of Ivy City have long been on record asking that the school be turned into a multi-use center to serve youth and elders. They have endured years of testifying at hearings, participating in city planning meetings, and mobilizing community participation. They experienced many broken promises, and even had to file a lawsuit to block attempts to turn Crummell into a bus parking lot.

Last year, Empower DC worked with Ivy City residents and partners to submit a proposal that would turn the historic Crummell School and 1 acre of the site into a Community Land Trust, keeping the grounds open for community recreational use (with a playground/splash park, basketball court, walking trail, and garden) and opening the school as a nonprofit Community Center with a mix of programming to meet the needs of youth, adults and seniors. The school building would become a community square surrounded by new affordable housing. Alexander Crummell SchoolUnfortunately, local government is forsaking Ivy City’s community dream and choosing another high-end development striving to be DC’s newest “hot” real estate.

When President Trump tells us in seven days how “huge” his accomplishments have been in his first 100 days, let’s ponder the “huge” decisions being made in Planning Departments and Mayors’ Offices across our country to not provide enough [housing & jobs] for those who have too little. Many politicians are failing the equitable development test. Our civic duty is to grade accordingly.



“If President-elect Trump has his way, we will be standing still on a melting planet. Are we really going to let that happen?” — Sigourney Weaver, Years of Living Dangerously, National Geographic Channel

I finally found time to watch YLD’s season closing episode, “UPRISING,” which weaved Weaver’s exploration of China’s explosive economic growth and its impact on the waukegan-coal-plantenvironment, not only locally but on a massive global scale with America Ferrera’s visit to Waukegan, Illinois. There a still-functioning coal plant, owned by NRG, is creating tension between the community leaders who want to shut it down for the sake of their health and those, including the mayor, who want to keep it open for the jobs. Together the stories connected how climate action requires global attention but must start with local steps.

For over 40 years, SHELTERFORCE has covered the work of practitioners, advocates, and activists for social justice and community development. Some of my November U2Cando blog and some of this month’s blog were posted December 22nd on its ROOFLINES blog website under the title: “You’ve Seen This Movie Before. You Know What to Do.”

I shared how hearing Bill McKibben, the founder of, on November 9th served me well as a post-election group therapy. I recalled how his remarks generated flashback memories to my organizing roots with Gale Cincotta, who spoke truth to the imperative of Reclaiming America from big oil and big banks in the Reagan years of deregulation for profits. Yes, the Reagan Years: when the early days of the Community Reinvestment Act were intentionally stifled; when a promising national investigation and organizing campaign on insurance redlining was suppressed by cancelling one of the final contracts of the Carter Administration.

But then I shared how my community development career started when Nixon was President. Yes, the Nixon Years: when redlining was prevalent as “wise” investing for cities-destroyed-for-cashprofit; when under the watch of HUD Secretary George Romney (yes, Mitt’s dad) Cities Destroyed for Cash was the outcome. That is the title of the 1973 book by journalist Brian Boyer, which documented how the federal government itself had become the predatory lender that fueled redlining and the withdrawal of private capital from America’s communities. I’ll refrain from reminding us about the George W Years; except to observe that our communities are still hemorrhaging from an economy destroyed by greed.

Yes, we have seen this new Trump movie before. But I don’t remember the CEO of Exxon Mobil being cast as Secretary of State. Personally, I prefer CBS’ Madam Secretary, Téa Leoni. Her TV experience is better than the President-Elect. She’s been saving the world; not firing people.

The reality of the current previews for the Trump Years is that this is shaping up to be one of those horror movie sequels with more violence and blood than the earlier ones in the franchise. There is a reason to be scared, horrified in fact. But we cannot retreat.

Thanks to an obstructionist Congress eight years after Wall Street crashed our economy and devastated our communities, government officials still can’t figure out how to employ community residents in rebuilding their own neighborhoods by rehabbing vacant foreclosed homes at affordable prices. The potential for green jobs was never really pursued when the demand for residential energy-efficiency was minimized by a Bush-appointee’s blockage of an innovative financing tool, Property Assessed Clean Energy [PACE]. The expansion of solar has been curtailed by public utilities duplicitously working to negate its expansion for residential, commercial and publicly-owned properties; all of which are significant job creating markets.

Our best recourse is to re-engage with our municipal governments to further locally-generated solutions. We must advance the rebuilding of our communities as a core economic strategy to create jobs and assure affordable housing to raise families. It is the antidote to the current plague of hatred. It remains the healing cure for a just and equitable society. We must persevere at the community level, at our roots.

America Ferrera concludes her segment on THE COAL WARS observing:

“The fight against climate change and the transition to clean energy is messy and difficult. But there is so much to be hopeful about. Ordinary people in Waukegan are doing what they can to take on climate change in their corner of the world.”

That’s a theme we should all consider for our New Year’s resolution for 2017 action in our corners of the world.



“Town Meetings in ’76 are where I learned program organization skills and the power of group participation. The explosion of spirit always happened when the new song was sung and the new story of the community-past, present and future-was read.” – OliveAnn Slotta

town-meetingsIn 1976, the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) launched a Bicentennial Commission approved initiative to convene Town Meetings in 5,000 counties across the US, creating one of the most comprehensive data sets of community challenges, aspirations, and proposals. Many of those original documents are in ICA’s extensive archives.

This past year our Archive Team with Dominican University Library Science graduate students explored the community challenges and project proposals that were developed in nine states as a result of ICA Town Meetings. I first found the results surprising but then remembered that this was the post-Watergate Presidential Election Year. What I find disturbing is how relevant these findings are for today’s politics and Presidential Election Year.

Finding #1 from Town Meetings during America’s Bicentennial was the gap between government and citizens fostered by poor communication between citizens & government.

Finding #2 from 40 years ago was the lack of citizen and community involvement and the extensiveness of public apathy.

Finding #3 was no appreciation for diversity amidst racism.

Finding #4 was the challenge of planning for long-term development when confronted with few public services, aging infrastructure, loss of resources, and not enough jobs.

OliveAnn Slotta worked on Town Meetings from ICA offices in Cincinnati and Cleveland. As she reflects above, the experience of engaging citizens to identify challenges that their communities face and to build consensus on action for solutions can be powerful. It is also essential to the spirit of our democracy if we are to trust government to represent its citizens.

OliveAnn now lives in Denver and teaches at Metro State University. With her husband Jim and other ICA colleagues, she is working to Accelerate Climate Action there.

“Now in Denver, it feels like deja vu. We are eliciting agency resource support, and telling the story of possibility that happens when local people join together to share visions and plan, to anyone who will listen,” reflects OliveAnn. “The major difference this time is that we are working with an experienced team of ICA and ToP facilitators, and Climate Action is an urgent message that everyone recognizes. We are expecting 50 representative participants on October 22nd at the Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods [CHUN] Community Hall. No red, white and blue balloons this time—but maybe some green and blue ones.”

Yet this urgent message of Climate Action is missing from our current political discourse. Climate Change is not a Chinese hoax. It is a Chinese calamity when air pollution is killing about 4,400 people in China every single day.

childrens-trustCurrently, a landmark US constitutional climate change lawsuit is pending a ruling thanks to twenty-one youth from across the United States, age 8 to 19, and Our Children’s Trust who filed a landmark constitutional climate change lawsuit in 2015 against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Check out their website and sign the petition in their support.

Perhaps, it’s time to be even more direct and personal by starting to sue climate-denier elected politicians for “political malpractice.”


Bob & Sandra Rafos

At ICA’s Board meeting on September 18th, Bob Rafos (who will be terming out as a director at the end of this year) was asked to offer the Closing Reflection: “We are facing the greatest threat of our time: Climate Change. This is our one mission. Our role now is as it was before:

  • Be a source of awakenment.
  • Sound the call to commitment; and
  • Demonstrate what is possible.

Using ICA’s GreenRise building as a symbol of service and sustainability, we must outreach to others working on climate action.”

That’s what we must do at ICA to fulfill our mission to “build a just and equitable society in harmony with Planet Earth.” That’s what we all must do to engage as US citizens.

Climate Action cannot wait for the 2020 Elections.


What makes ReFresh Milwaukee unique, and the recommendations quite poignant, is the fact that residents set the direction of this planning effort. — Mayor Tom Barrett

ReFresh Milwaukee is the official Sustainability Plan for the City of Milwaukee.ReFresh_MKE_cover It provides a vision for community sustainability over the next 10 years as it seeks to make Milwaukee a world class eco-city and the Fresh Coast Capital of North America. The City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) is charged with implementing the plan in partnership with other city agencies and community partners.

On my May visit to Milwaukee, I had the opportunity to meet with ECO director Erick Shambarger, community leaders and my longstanding colleague and friend, Howard Snyder. As I have been exploring sustainability initiatives in other US cities, Milwaukee stands out not only for innovative diverse strategies but also for its strong community building approaches.

Groundwork Milwaukee is part of the Groundwork USA network of independent, not-for-profit, environmental businesses called Groundwork Trusts. I first encountered Goundwork Denver last year.

The US programs evolved from a model developed in the UK, where the first Groundwork Trust was founded in 1982 to revitalize abandoned industrial sites in northern England. Since then, Groundwork UK has grown into a network of fifty-two locally based groups.

In 1996, the National Park Service imported this successful program into three pilot communities: Bridgeport, CT; Lawrence, MA; and Providence, RI. Milwaukee was designated a Groundwork USA Pilot Community in 2003. Today there are 19 Groundwork sites in the US and another 9 underdevelopment.

MUG2In 2014, Groundwork Milwaukee merged with Milwaukee Urban Gardens, a non-profit that manages dozens of community gardens throughout the City. Today, they have grown to over 90 gardens that are exclusively run by community leaders and volunteers. Since 2006, Groundwork Milwaukee has worked on 284 projects benefiting 203,163 people and actively involving 2,558 adults (over 18 years) and 1,765 youth (under 18 years) thru partnerships with 30 schools.

The Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (NWSCDC) has served the economic development needs of Milwaukee’s low-income communities since 1983. It has assisted neighborhood strategic planning to improve safety, land use planning, development to spur retail growth, and numerous business and workforce development programs.

Under the leadership of Howard Snyder, NWSCDC has received 15 Office of Community Services (OCS) awards from 1986 to 2015; making it one of the most successful CDC manager of these impactful federal Community Economic Development (CED) funds. The 12 most recent OCS projects since the year 2000 have all been business expansion loans, totaling $7,545,981 lent. These 12 projects created 985 total jobs (including low-income and non-low-income) during the project periods, and 826 of these new jobs were filled by low-income job-seekers. Two active projects (awards from 2014 and 2015) are still generating new jobs.

On February 15th, 2012, President Barack Obama recognized the innovative efforts of Diamond Precision, a manufacturing plant that received a loan from Northwest Side CDC to expand its operations and create jobs for low-income people in Milwaukee. In his speech, President Obama stressed the importance of “insourcing” for America’s recovery, praised Milwaukee’s impressive job-creation projects and commended Diamond Precision on bringing work previously done overseas back to the US.

In 2008, the NWSCDC lent $580,000 to DRS Technologies as part of an $11 million facility upgrade that created 51 new manufacturing positions for low-income workers. DRSDRS is a high-tech manufacturer of power and control systems for US Navy ships and submarines. The NWSCDC loan also fostered the creation of a business incubator within the DRS facility, which supported 22 jobs for low-income individuals at Universal Housing Systems (a tenant of the incubator).

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago highlighted the DRS project and the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation as “transforming the approach to creating positive economic impact in distressed communities,” and an unique collaboration that could serve as a national template for community-corporate relations.

In 2012, NWSCDC won a $728,750 OCS grant award to assist in financing the purchase of the former Eaton Corporation headquarters, a seven-story 184,309 square-foot tower. Rebranded as Century City Tower, Century City Towerthe building was transitioned from a single-user R&D office building into a multi-disciplinary job accelerator, comprising a multi-tenant facility.

Partnering with the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) was key to saving Century City Tower and turning it into the Energy Innovation Center, an accelerator for businesses in the Energy, Power, and Controls Technology industry cluster. The offices of the NWSCDC and M-WERC are both housed in Century City Tower, further cementing their ongoing economic development partnership.

M-WERC is a consortium of 90 firms and 4 universities. Its Energy Innovation Center creates, tests, and licenses new technologies with lab space for collaborative research, advanced prototyping center, and large scale product piloting space. Current research is focused on: Distributed Energy Resources & Systems (DERS) and Conversion Architecture for Microgrids and Integrations of Renewable Energy Sources as the next big wave to accelerate growth of the building energy efficiency (BEE) market. NWSCDC is partnering with M-WERC to plan and design advanced Microgrid facilities at pilot sites in their community.

In the community development field, we often use “Re” words of reinvest and revitalize. As we now explore sustainability strategies for our communities we can also consider “restoring” vacant land to community gardens and “recharging” our power sources with renewable energy as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. But as we do so, we must keep focused that to really “rejuvenate” our communities we need to “revive” our local economies.

There are a lot “Re” words to be found in the Thesaurus for “refresh.” Many of them are being deployed in Milwaukee where they should be: in the community and by the community. That’s a “reality” to be remembered across the country in this political season.



Liz, Gail & Gordon never met. But they were “Champions for Justice” that impacted my life and vocation.

Elizabeth Hollander was the first woman to serve as commissioner of planning for the city of Chicago, appointed by Mayor Harold Washington in 1983. I had the privilege to work with her when I became the CEO of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations (CANDO) in 1984.

I’m not sure what year in the 1990s, I first met Gail Burks. But we served together as board directors of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] for over 20 years. Having both served terms as board chairs, we became close colleagues for economic justice through countless NCRC meetings and appointments with federal officials.

gordonI only met Gordon Harper last May when I became CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) & the Ecumenical Institute. I was scheduled to talk with him the day after we received the call that he had completed his life at the age of 79. I missed that opportunity for another partaking of his wisdom.

According to his obit, Gordon was an activist for justice at a very early age, when in high school he petitioned his neighbors in Neenah, WI to recall Sen. Joseph McCarthy. I’m sure Gordon would have some comments worthy of the Pope on the current Presidential Campaign.

In the early ‘70s, Gordon and his family moved to Chicago to join the staff of the Ecumenical Institute full-time and, as he wrote, “to leave the academic world and change the world.” Over the next quarter century, Gordon combined his passions for teaching, facilitating, and making a positive global change to go on assignments to assist local communities to develop their own plans for the future. Gordon and his family lived all over the Asian world – e.g., India, Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Most recently living in Seattle, Gordon worked with ICA’s Archives Team through Google Hangouts and week-long Sojourns in Chicago. He was a ToP (Technology of Participation) trainer of trainers in facilitation skills and strategic planning methods. He was honored with a video tribute at ToP’s 25th anniversary gathering that I had the privilege to attend.

Gail SpeakingGail Burks passed way too early at the age of 54 after a brief illness that many of us were not aware of. Originally from North Carolina, she graduated from Arizona State University and ASU Law School. Gail served as the President/CEO for Nevada Fair Housing until last year when she retired after 20+ years of service.

I can attest to her description as “a unique, humble, kindred spirit.” I also witnessed her passion and advocacy against discrimination and predatory lending. I’m sure there will be many tears when she is remembered at NCRC’s 25th Anniversary conference on March 17th in DC. I’ll especially miss her laugh.

Liz Hollander died at the age of 75 last October in Providence, RI, where she had moved to in the late 1990s. A memorial service was held earlier this month here at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library.

Five years ago, I had the opportunity to lunch with Liz when I attended my Providence College 40th reunion. We discussed her role as the executive director of DePaul’s Egan Office for Urban Education & Community Partnerships, working with the university and the community to address critical urban problems, help alleviate poverty and promote social justice in Chicago. Liz went on to be the executive director of Campus Compact, a national coalition of nearly 1,100 colleges and universities committed to enabling campuses to develop students’ citizenship skills and forge effective community partnerships. That conversation remains very relevant to ICA’s Service Learning efforts today.

Liz & Harold photoAmong speakers at Liz’s service was former Chicago Tribune writer John McCarron. He noted that she brought a concern for social justice to her work. When the City Council Wars prevented Mayor Washington from taxing downtown development to create new funds for community development, Planning Commissioner Hollander pursued voluntary “linked development” agreements. CANDO and our members were beneficiaries when she had developers work with us to create the first Neighborhood Retail Fair in 1986. McCarron described Liz’s approach to reviewing development proposals as “milk the good deals for all they’re worth but kill the bad deals.”

In an irony of history, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced this month his proposed Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus to charge downtown developers extra for density bonuses to generate funds for projects in Chicago’s economically depressed neighborhoods. Sure sounds like a Linked Development Tax that could have been imposed 30 years ago for community development.

I’m sure Liz would milk today’s opportunities for even more. Gail would question whether the City isn’t failing its HUD mandated affirmative obligation to promote fair housing if all it’s doing is further segregating communities by not requiring affordable housing downtown. Gordon would remind us to act since “These are the times; we are the People.”

Three “Champions for Justice” I have known, who inspire me to keep striving for justice. Let us give thanks for their lives of service.



I, the LORD, have called you for justice, I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you as a covenant for the people — ISAIAH 42:6

The first reading from Mass on Sunday January 10th at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Phoenix certainly was relevant to numerous politicians. I was there because I was attending the 25th Anniversary Gathering for the Technology of Participation (ToP)® which draws upon decades of worldwide community development experience of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). It was good to meet in person with ToP Network leaders, trainers and facilitators.

A workshop I co-facilitated on using ToP as a tool for climate change action sparked interest for on-going dialogue. A small group discussion on faith-based outreach shared the interesting use of ToP methods with the Muslim Reform Movement. The ToP Champion Award to the Maricopa Public Health Department demonstrated how the process can enhance government’s ability to serve their constituents.

Enabling government to be a covenant for people was certainly an aspiration for Dr. King. I again joined 100 parishioners of our church Old St. Pat’s to attend this year’s Faith in Action Assembly on January 18th for Martin Luther King Day.CRS Jan 2016 Over 1,500 people from Community Renewal Society’s congregations and neighborhood organizations filled First Baptist Congregational Church on Chicago’s near west side.

To address Chicago’s new refrain of “16 Shots & a Cover-Up” from an African-American teenager being killed by a white police officer, an effort has been launched to create the Chicago FAIR COPS (Freedom through Accountability, Investigation and Reform for Community Oversight of Policing Services) Ordinance, which would create an Office of Police Auditor in Chicago. The Assembly won commitments that morning from 19 city and state elected officials to improve police accountability, enact fair tax reform, and increase job opportunities for people with criminal records.

Rev. Eddie Knox, Jr., the pastor of Pullman Presbyterian Church and Board President of Community Renewal Society stressed:

“When black and brown people are constantly at risk from police violence, when our communities are destroyed by economic injustice, we must stand up and demand commitment to real action now!”

For those politicians who did not attend, we prayed: “May God transform your heart and bend your mind toward justice.”

Such prayers were certainly needed at the January 21st hearing of the Chicago Plan Commission. A proposed amendment was submitted by Montrose Clarendon Partners, LLC for land purchased from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in order to demolish the vacant Cuneo Hospital Cueno Hospitaland construct two new high-rises of luxury apartments; one with 381 units and a second with 250 units. Total number of affordable units to be provided on site? Only 20.

Yet, the City of Chicago has approved a $15.9 million TIF subsidy for these luxury apartments. The developer has only promised to contribute $4.6 million to help renovate the Clarendon Park Community Center across the street and $5.7 million to Chicago’s Low-Income Housing Trust Fund but not to be spent in Uptown.

That’s a major net profit for the developer since the project is being rushed for final approval before more stringent affordable housing requirements become effective later this year. According to my calculations, the new Affordable Ordinance would require this project to provide 158 affordable units on site (25%). Even if they were allowed to buy their way out of affordable units on site and given credit for the park donation, I calculate that the developer would need to contribute an additional $6.9 million to the Low-Income Trust Fund.JDL

ICA’s Program Director, Seva Gandhi, testified and asked that the project be put on hold until there is actual community representation at the table, the proper studies take place, and funds are allocated to increase broader community engagement for this particular planning process.

“This proposed Montrose-Clarendon development will overshadow a wonderful park, will create a greater divide between the have and have-nots in Uptown, and is not responsive to the need Uptown currently has… for affordable housing that is already not being met, and will continue to be exacerbated if it is ignored and development without understanding the needs of the community it serves continues this way.”

Seva had also attended the last community meeting and noted: “as a community engagement specialist and facilitator I can say those meetings only took into account the voices of individuals who have one particular vision for Uptown; each meeting was met with more community members opposing the project than wanting it; however it was those who were in favor of the project that had a vote…. The process gave power to block club leaders and experts who, despite having been carefully selected to represent diverse interests, were not accessible or accountable to the community members they were supposed to represent. ICA, a large community stakeholder in Uptown for over 40 years, did not have a vote in the community zoning and development group that approved this proposal.”

In Paragraph 93 of his ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’, Pope FRANCIS reminds us:

“The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.”

He goes on to quote Saint John Paul II: “there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them…. it is not in accord with God’s plan that this gift be used in such a way that its benefits favour only a few.”

Luxury apartments in Chicago’s most racially and economically diverse community is a legacy that the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart should not accept as meeting the aspirations of Pope Francis and Saint John Paul II.


“Faith communities are a growing part of the climate change movement.”
– Naomi Klein, Chicago Film Premier of This Changes Everything, October 20, 2015

October had a lot of action planning. The Chicago office of the Local Initiative Support Corporation [LISC] selected the Institute of Cultural Affairs to incorporate our methods to maximize participation and community engagement in four day-long sessions for its new Chicago Plans initiative, launched on October 2nd. Ten communities were selected to enhance their skills in convening community stakeholders. With a flash back to my CANDO days at the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations, two of the groups involved were assisted in their start-up in the mid-90s by CANDO’s Demonstrating, Enabling and Empowering Development [DEED] program led by Patricia Bell: West Humboldt Park Development Council and Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation.

Naomi Klein and her film director husband Avi Lewis chose to be at the Chicago Film Premier of This Changes Everything,This-Changes-Everything_Film Poster which screened in 50 cities on October 20, 2015. As my blog followers may remember, the book left quite an impression on me. With the film’s visuals, the call to action is even more compelling and the personal stories of the struggles even more gripping.

Aningi Jyothi of the Sompeta Women’s Committee is a matriarch in Andhra Pradesh, India. While singing sweetly, she battled fiercely along with her fellow villagers to successfully fight a proposed coal-fired power plant that would have destroyed their life-giving wetland. In the course of this struggle, they helped to ignite a nationwide movement.

Crystal Lameman, Treaty Coordinator and Communications Manager of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta’s Tar Sands country, is a young indigenous leader fighting for access to a restricted military base in search of answers about an environmental disaster in progress. That fight is now working its way through the Canadian courts. “If you drink water, if you breathe the air, this is about you,” Crystal warns in the film’s closing.

On October 23rd, ICA convened its Fall Sustainability Forum for the Faith Community. The opening keynote was by Bishop Sally Dyck, Northern IL Conference of the Methodist Church. She shared how she co-authored with her niece, Sarah Ehrman, A Hopeful Earth: Faith, Science, and the Message of Jesus because her niece asked “what are you doing about climate change?”

Seva Gandhi, ICA; Patricia J. Eggleston, Imani Village; K. Rizwan Kadir, Inter-faith Presenter; Dr. Mark Potosnak, DePaul University, Catholic Climate Covenant; Rev. Brian Sauder, Faith in Place; Bishop Sally Dyck, Northern Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church

Seva Gandhi, ICA; Patricia J. Eggleston, Imani Village; K. Rizwan Kadir, Inter-faith Presenter; Dr. Mark Potosnak, DePaul University, Catholic Climate Covenant; Rev. Brian Sauder, Faith in Place; Bishop Sally Dyck, Northern Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church

The forum’s Eco-Justice/Policy working group learned from Melissa Brice about the Urban Church of the United Methodist’s Divestment Campaign from fossil fuels. The campaign calls for the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to screen petroleum and natural gas from its investments. (The board began screening some coal from its investments in January 2015.) As the campaign website’s preaches: “We are United Methodists who believe it is wrong to profit from wrecking God’s creation.”

Rev. Brian Sauder, CEO of Faith in Place, challenged the 90+ attendees to have the “Audacity to move Apathy to Action.” ICA is committed to changing the conversation about climate change. Apathy will not save our planet; only the courage to care for God’s creation.
On a personal note, let me assure my blog followers who know me that I am sustaining my faith in the Chicago Cubs. Despite having been there for the Game 4 loss to the Mets and my World Series Game 5 ticket for November 1st not being valid at Wrigley Field, as Eddie Vedder sings, Someday We’ll Go All The Way.