Commit to Justice: A Letter From Seft Hunter, Executive Director

Commit to Justice: A Letter From Seft Hunter, Executive Director

Dear friends,

For 40 years, CCO has worked to improve the quality and length of life for residents facing the most dire challenges. 2017 was an especially challenging year because the local, state, and federal programs our families count on to help provide access to healthcare, food, and housing remained under constant threat.

Right here in Missouri, our state legislature refused to act to expand Medicaid or reduce the triple-digit interest rates on small loans—solutions our families urgently need to ensure they can see the doctor when they get sick and access credit in periods of emergency.

CCO and our partners have consistently and powerfully pushed to address these issues. Unfortunately there is still much more work to do.

As I write this letter, Congress is debating whether to cut billions of dollars from the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid to give millionaires and billionaires tax cuts they don’t need. These immoral actions with surely mean thousands of residents right here in Missouri will not be able to access the life-preserving care they need.

The social and economic safety net that allows our families to experience basic human dignity is under attack.

Now more than ever, we need your support. We are seeking to raise $25,000 by the end of December 2017. Please consider becoming an ongoing member for just $5/month or $60/year. There is a membership option for organizations and faith communities as well.

You can also make a one-time contribution. Your support of any size ensures our important work continues without interruption. Become a member or donate at our secure online portal: www.cco.org/give

Sincerely,

 

Seft Hunter, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Elliott Clark's Story

Elliott Clark's Story

Elliott Clark served two tours in Vietnam, worked as a cook at a Kansas City restaurant, and owned a home with his wife, Aquila. Three days before Aquila was eligible for full benefits at her new job, she slipped and broke her ankle. Though Elliott had been a faithful, good-standing client of his bank for years, he was not approved for the loan he needed to pay the hospital bill. With no other option, he turned to a payday loan to foot the bill.

The massive interest rate of the loan dug Elliott into an even deeper financial hole. That one payday loan multiplied into five. He accumulated $50,000 in interest from only $2,500 worth of loans. Elliott and his wife lost their car and their home. He eventually received a lump-sum disability check from the VA, and managed to pay off the debt collectors.

Communities Creating Opportunity connected with Elliott and disseminated his story. He was featured in TIME, ABC News, and local media such as The Kansas City Star, significantly raising awareness of the predatory lending crisis in poor minority areas of American municipalities. CCO, committed to empowering residents personally affected by injustices, also developed Elliott as a leader. He became co-chair of CCO’s “Stop the Debt Trap” campaign in 2016.

Elliott is now a staunch advocate against the exorbitant interest rates predatory lenders offer folks with no better option for a small-dollar, short-term loan. “I want to tell people now that hey, your voice has to be heard because if you don’t say something then you are always suffering in silence; there’s too many people here to help you,” Elliott said.

CCO Newsletter 10/24/17

CCO Newsletter 10/24/17

Live in Johnson County? Join us on Thursday. We are co-hosting "A Discussion on Faith and Health."

At this conversation the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment will share the results of their community health assessment with the faith community and explain their health improvement plan. We’ll explore how JoCo can work together to promote living in healthier ways. All faiths, and people of no faith, are welcome.

Date & Time: Thursday, October 26, 2017 from 11:30am-1:30pm (free lunch!)

Location: Arts and Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, KS

RSVP: Please RSVP here

 

 

Petitions need YOU to succeed. CCO is co-hosting a "Petition Signature Gathering and Canvassing Training." 

At this free training, we will be teaching participants how to circulate petitions, collect signatures from registered voters, and canvass. 

Specifically, we will prepare participants to gather signatures at various polling sites in KCMO during the election on Tuesday, November 7, for the purpose of getting the Healthy Homes ordinance on the April 2018 ballot (which, if passed, would create a permit system to hold landlords accountable for unhealthy or unsafe homes). We will NOT be doing any actual canvassing at this training, however.

Date & Time: Thursday, November 2, 2017 from 6pm to 7:30pm

Location: Zion Grove Missionary Baptist, 2801 Swope Parkway, KCMO

RSVP: Let us know you can make it here

 

 

Join our "Alvin Sykes Speaks: A Conversation on Racial Justice in America" event!   

Kansas City native Alvin Sykes has worked for civil rights for decades. He traveled throughout the United States working on justice campaigns for victims of civil rights violations and racist murder. He was also instrumental in pushing Congress to pass the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, establishing a cold case division at the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute old, unsolved hate crimes.

Come hear Alvin Sykes speak on his life, his work, and the future of justice. 
 

Date & Time: Thursday, November 9, 2017 from 6:30pm to 8pm

Location: Auditorium of the KCMO Public Health Department building (2400 Troost Avenue, KCMO)

RSVP: Let us know you're coming here.

To help spread the word, share our Facebook event   

 

 

Live in Topeka? Come receive free health services at the Health and Wellness Fair. CCO is co-sponsoring an important event that will offer free medical screenings (including dental and mental screenings), flu shots, eye and hearing assessments, and more. The fair will also include musical entertainment and games for kids!

Date & Time: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 from 10am-6:30pm     

Location: Topeka Performing Arts Center, 214 SE 8th Street, Topeka, KS 

RSVP: If you're on Facebook, RSVP there

 

 

"Raising of America" Viewing! We are continuing to educate residents on the importance of early childhood development. Join us for a viewing of the fantastic documentary "The Raising of America," on how social issues like poverty and violence impact children.

Date & Time: Thursday, November 16, 2017 from 6pm-7:30pm  

Location: Leawood United Methodist, 2915 W 95th Street, Leawood, KS

RSVP: Please let us know you're coming here 

 

Have a great week! 

CCO Newsletter 10/4/2017

CCO Newsletter 10/4/2017

Visit CCO's Facebook page to watch a Facebook Live interview with Phil Glynn, president of Travois. CCO Executive Director Seft Hunter and Mr. Glynn discussed why a $15 minimum wage actually benefits businesses!


Kansas City has one of the highest murder rates in the nation. Faced with the constant threats of violence around us, it is time to come together as a community and take action. We are calling on you to join a Neighborhood Violence Response Team to support victims’ families, connect with at-risk youth, and create safe communities for all.

This is how you can make a difference in the world, by promoting peace and healing! Join us for orientation/training:

Date: Saturday, October 7, 2017

Time: 10am to 1pm (lunch served)

Location: Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church (2310 Linwood Blvd, KCMO 64109)

RSVP: Let us know you're coming here.

Please spread the word on Facebook by sharing the event page. See you then!

 

Join us in Johnson County! Health is more than just the absence of disease. It is the ability to thrive—physically, mentally, and spiritually.

At this conversation the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment will share the results of their community health assessment with the faith community and explain their health improvement plan. We’ll explore how JoCo can work together to promote living, working, playing, and praying in healthier ways. All faiths are welcome.

Date: Thursday, October 26, 2017

Time: 11:30am-1:30pm (lunch provided)

Location: Arts and Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, KS 66212

RSVP: Please RSVP here.

Then forward this email to someone you know would also be interested and share the Facebook event to spread the word!

If you are a faith leader, we'd love for you to bring your congregation. See you there.

Event sponsors: LiveWell Johnson County, the Johnson County Department of Health & Environment, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Communities Creating Opportunity

CCO Statement on Stockley Verdict

CCO Statement on Stockley Verdict

Communities Creating Opportunity condemns the ruling of St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson in the trial of former police officer Jason Stockley, who is responsible for killing Anthony Lamar Smith, an African American. Stockley was found not guilty.

We believe Judge Wilson partly based his decision on pre-conceived biases. Although Officer Stockley, while in pursuit of Smith, said on video that he was going to kill Smith, the judge dismissed this as irrelevant to what followed. “People say all kinds of things in the heat of the moment or while in stressful situations.” Therefore Stockley’s statement couldn’t possibly be evidence for an “intentional killing following deliberation.” Judge Wilson chooses to forget that high stress can be a predicate of murder, not just a factor that makes one say things one does not mean. CCO does not believe that the criminal justice system would be so kind were the roles reversed. Had Smith threatened to kill Stockley, we believe that would have been taken into account as evidence of his guilt after Stockley was gunned down. The police are most always given the benefit of the doubt in American courts, people of color quite rarely.

Further, concerning the controversy of whether Stockley (who was found to be carrying an unauthorized rifle in his vehicle) planted a revolver in Smith’s car, Judge Wilson writes, “The Court observes, based on its nearly thirty years on the bench, that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.” The police testified that narcotics were found in Smith’s car alongside the gun. CCO believes that judges should stick solely to the evidence of the case, not project historic trends, perceived or factual, on to current cases, infecting verdicts with assumptions. We also know that “urban” is a term almost exclusively used to describe black people, and caution judges, and all people, against the bias of language.

It is this kind of situation -- an officer saying he would kill someone, doing so, and going unpunished -- that makes people of color feel as if they are not valued in our society. It breeds animosity and distrust toward the police.

Trust in the criminal justice system can never be restored without justice. Missouri, and the nation as whole, needs a criminal justice system that does not show preference to either side in a case, whether individual or institution. We know police officers who kill in the line of duty are almost never convicted, while at the same time knowing human beings often make mistakes -- and retain implicit or overt biases against people of color. Justice is vital; justice is demanded. Prosecutors in this case even argued for less severe homicide charges -- any form of justice! Even the police department tacitly acknowledged wrongdoing by firing Stockley after the incident. Yet today Stockley walks free.

When is the time for justice, America? The time is NOW.

CCO Newsletter 9/14/2017

CCO Newsletter 9/14/2017

Connect better with CCO! If you are not yet connected with us on social media, please like our Facebook page and follow our Twitter page. Also explore our website, particularly the blog. Don't miss a stellar article from Reverend Lia McIntosh entitled "The First 200 Days and a Call For Justice," linked here.

 

We’ll see you in Johnson County tonight! Join us for a viewing of the exceptional documentary on how social conditions like poverty and violence affect childhood development: “The Raising of America.” After the viewing, we will have a short discussion and let you know how you can get involved to ensure positive early childhood development for every child in JoCo.

This event takes place tonight, Thursday, September 14, 2017, from 6pm-8pm, at the Oak Park Library (9500 Bluejacket St, Overland Park, KS 66214). RSVP here.

 

Live in a KCMO neighborhood helped by the 1/8 cent sales tax? The city-wide sales tax benefits the area from 9th Street to Gregory (North to South) and from Paseo to Indiana (West to East).

This tax is a unique opportunity to address some of the persistent challenges in our community (e.g. sidewalks, streets, employment). But we know without a clear strategy, strong leadership, and effective advocacy this opportunity like many others will fall apart.

Please join us for an important meeting of the sales tax stakeholder community leaders to discuss how best to ensure our voices and community priorities are fully considered in the way the resources are allocated. It will be ideal to have one or more members of your neighborhood board present for this meeting. If this is not possible, feel free to send a community representative. Residents are welcome as well.

This meeting takes place at the CCO office (2400 Troost Ave in KCMO, suite 4600) on Monday, September 25, 2017 at 6pm. RSVP here.

 

Help #DefendDACA. On Tuesday, the White House announced it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected children brought to the U.S. illegally from deportation. Now no more DACA applications will be accepted.

Congress has six months to pass legislation to prevent 800,000 innocent people from being arrested and trucked off to countries many cannot even remember. There are several bills on the table, most with bipartisan support, that could save DACA recipients.

Please call your U.S. representatives today and tell them to protect our immigrant brothers and sisters. Click here to look up your U.S. senators and House rep.

 

Have a great week. Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place.

CCO Newsletter 9/6/2017

CCO Newsletter 9/6/2017

Help #DefendDACA. On Tuesday, the White House announced it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected children brought to the U.S. illegally from deportation. Now no more DACA applications will be accepted.

Congress has six months to pass legislation to prevent 800,000 innocent people from being arrested and trucked off to countries many cannot even remember. There areseveral bills on the table, most with bipartisan support, that could save DACA recipients.

Please call your U.S. representatives today and tell them to protect our immigrant brothers and sisters. Click here to look up your U.S. senators and House rep.

 

Stand against voter suppression. CCO is a partner of the Greater KC Voter Protection Coalition, which is coming together for a press conference on voting rights! Speakers will describe to the press the harm that the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" in D.C. is causing and why we believe this commission will worsen the pattern of voter suppression nationwide if its work continues.

The press conference is on Tuesday, September 12 at 12pm noon at Illus Davis Park (1000 Locust St., KCMO 64106). It will be at the north end of the park in front of the courthouse. The rain location is Grand Ave Temple Methodist Church.

We'd like to invite you to attend to support what we know to be true: cases of fraud are extremely rare, but voter suppression presents a grave threat to our democracy and needs to be actively fought. No RSVP needed, just come!

 

Live in or near Johnson County? Join us for a viewing of the exceptional documentary on how social conditions like poverty and violence affect childhood development: “The Raising of America.” After the viewing, we will have a short discussion and let you know how you can get involved to ensure positive early childhood development for every child in JoCo.

This event takes place on Thursday, September 14, 2017 from 6pm-8pm, at the Oak Park Library (9500 Bluejacket St, Overland Park, KS 66214). RSVP here.

 

Live in a KCMO neighborhood helped by the 1/8 cent sales tax? The city-wide sales tax benefits the area from 9th Street to Gregory (North to South) and from Paseo to Indiana (West to East).

This tax is a unique opportunity to address some of the persistent challenges in our community (e.g. sidewalks, streets, employment). But we know without a clear strategy, strong leadership, and effective advocacy this opportunity like many others will fall apart.

Please join us for an important meeting of the sales tax stakeholder community leaders to discuss how best to ensure our voices and community priorities are fully considered in the way the resources are allocated. It will be ideal to have one or more members of your neighborhood board present for this meeting. If this is not possible, feel free to send a community representative. Residents are welcome as well.

This meeting takes place at the CCO office (2400 Troost Ave in KCMO, suite 4600) onMonday, September 25, 2017 at 6pm. RSVP here

 

Have a blessed week!

CCO Newsletter 8/29/2017

CCO Newsletter 8/29/2017

Tonight we gather to stand against cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, and the ACA. The 2018 federal budget is rolling back funding for these vital programs. Join our "Save the Safety Net" rally at All Souls Unitarian (4501 Walnut in KCMO) tonight at6:30pm. We'll have testimonials, music, and song! RSVP here

 

We invite you to join with other faith-based congregations in Topeka and pray for members of Congress. Our prayer is that they will not cut social safety net services. CCO has deemed Wednesday, August 30, 2017 as a Day of Solidarity in Prayer.

However, in honor of our diverse community of congregations, this prayer can be held any time during the week of August 28 to September 3.

Please send in videos or photos of your prayer meetings/services to Garrett Griffin, CCO communications coordinator, at garrett@cco.org. We are further collecting stories of those persons impacted by the potential cuts to these services. Those stories can also be sent to Garrett.

 

Live in Johnson County? Join us for a viewing of the exceptional documentary on how social conditions like poverty and violence affect childhood development: “The Raising of America.” After the viewing, we will have a short discussion and let you know how you can get involved to ensure positive early childhood development for every child in JoCo.

This event takes place on Thursday, September 14, 2017 from 6pm-8pm, at the Oak Park Library (9500 Bluejacket St, Overland Park, KS 66214). RSVP here.

 

Live in a KCMO neighborhood helped by the 1/8 cent sales tax? The city-wide sales tax benefits the area from 9th Street to Gregory (North to South) and from Paseo to Indiana (West to East).

This tax is a unique opportunity to address some of the persistent challenges in our community (e.g. sidewalks, streets, employment). But we know without a clear strategy, strong leadership, and effective advocacy this opportunity like many others will fall apart.

Please join us for an important meeting of the sales tax stakeholder community leaders to discuss how best to ensure our voices and community priorities are fully considered in the way the resources are allocated. It will be ideal to have one or more members of your neighborhood board present for this meeting. If this is not possible, feel free to send a community representative. Residents are welcome as well.

This meeting takes place at the CCO office (2400 Troost Ave in KCMO, suite 4600) onMonday, September 25, 2017 at 6pm. RSVP here

 

Have a great week!

It Can Happen Here

It Can Happen Here

The chilling hatred white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-nazis displayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, was an affront to human dignity -- and at multiple times a literal attack upon it. On Friday night on the University of Virginia campus, students standing up against the “Alt-Right” were surrounded and assaulted. At the “Unite the Right” rally the next day at a city park, a rally participant ran over and killed Heather Heyer, a paralegal and anti-racist activist. He injured 19 others in the attack. Others severely beat Deandre Harris, an anti-racist protester and hip-hop artist, in a parking garage. Fistfights broke out elsewhere.

Symbols of white supremacist violence, genocide, and oppression were prevalent. Swastikas and Nazi salutes, Ku Klux Klan hoods and crosses, Confederate flags and burning torches. Chants like “Proud to be white,” “You will not replace us,” “White lives matter,” and “Blood and soil” (an old Nazi slogan) filled the air. Many enjoyed the privilege of walking around with heavy weaponry and acting provocatively without fear of swift and painful police retribution.

Yet standing against them, arm-in-arm and singing, were local clergy. People of all colors, genders, orientations, and beliefs worked together -- truly, the American ideal -- to show with their bodies and voices that white supremacy has no place in a decent society. Residents and visitors from around the nation, youths and workers, radicals and civil rights activists, they all marched through the streets together in the name of justice. Not all went home unscathed. One did not go home at all. But all did the right thing in that moment. History will look as admirably upon them as it looks upon the souls attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday 1965.

It is their example that Kansas City must follow. With our words and with our bodies, Kansas Citians must confront racial hatred in all its forms. What happened in Charlottesville can happen here.

Kansas City is still scarred by its history of oppression of people of color: from where we live to how long we live to how much wealth we have. Events in 2017 alone have left an open wound in our present. As CCO has documented, swastikas, nooses, slurs, vandalism, threatening phone calls, declarations of “white power,” Alt-Right literature condemning a diverse America, beatings, and a shooting by a man hunting Arabs have all been experienced in our city in the past eight months alone. The past few years is an even darker story. There is no question the same elements that made this weekend’s horrific events possible exist in Kansas City.

CCO will confront daily the legacy of Kansas City’s white supremacy, working for equality and prosperity for all people. All of Kansas City -- especially white people, who have turned away in the face of injustice for too long -- must address racial and other mistreatment or stereotyping wherever they see it and at the moment they hear it. All of us must be fearless in the face of danger. We must confront hatred with our words and our bodies. We will speak up and show up. Justice expects nothing less. History expects nothing less.

From Executive Director Seft Hunter: Stand With Workers Tomorrow

From Executive Director Seft Hunter: Stand With Workers Tomorrow

This Tuesday, August 8th, Kansas City residents have an opportunity to weigh in on whether or not to raise their minimum wage. This is an opportunity for each of us to stand with workers and powerfully declare that no one working full time should remain trapped in poverty. We need your help. Join us in this effort.

For us at CCO, this is the continuation of a protracted fight we have been waging since 2012. We do this out of a deep and abiding commitment to our faith and shared values that call us to work to achieve economic dignity for all workers and families. We strongly believe that this moment requires that every person who seeks to live in a city where the dignity of work is affirmed by fair wages must come out on Tuesday and declare their belief by voting Yes on Question #3 to help us make it so.

To those who say our actions may get reversed by the Missouri State Legislature: You are right! But we have always known that the fight for fair wages will not end on Tuesday. We are further clear that a strong "yes" vote on this initiative helps to strengthen our legal options and renew our resolve to continue this important fight. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled earlier this spring that municipalities can raise wages if the action is approved by a vote of the people. With a victory on Tuesday we will be going back to the state supreme court to petition them to ratify this.

We have heard many arguments during this campaign both for and against raising wages. For us it comes down to a simple question--when do we stand up for what we believe is right? Workers deserve a raise. The moment to stand up for this is right now. Join us tomorrow, Tuesday, August 8th, to give Kansas City a raise.

- Seft Hunter, CCO Executive Director

 

Take Action

1. Find your polling station at www.kceb.org.  

2. Volunteer to make calls on election day at the CCO Office (2400 Troost Avenue, suite 4600) any time from 11am-5:30pm. Email garrett@cco.org to RSVP.

3. Make calls from home by following these instructions.

4. Find @kcfor15 on Facebook and Twitter and share posts now!

The First 200 Days and a Call For Justice

The First 200 Days and a Call For Justice

By Reverend Lia McIntosh


The first 200 days of the 45th president’s term have been named as unnerving at best and pandemonium at worst.  And honestly, I am exhausted by the inundation of coverage by the news media of this administration’s every tweet, text, and tirade.  Under this administration we have witnessed repeated verbal, political, and sometimes physical attacks against humanity with little regard for economic, social, and political justice in the U.S. and beyond.  Where shall we go from here?

Before I answer that question let me share a bit about my story. 

I was born on Nov 1, 1972, 4 years after Dr. King was killed.  My African American parents grew up during the civil rights movement.  My mother was raised in a segregated rural Mississippi community.  Her family is documented in the Civil Rights museum in Memphis, Tennessee, for their work in Mississippi registering African Americans to vote.

My father grew up in St. Louis.  As a college student he was actively involved in integrating lunch counters in Kirksville, Missouri.  Interestingly, he and a close friend were headed to Selma, Alabama, to participate in the 1964 civil rights march but never made it because the bus leaving from Kirksville was full and had no seats for them.

My parents' struggle and the sacrifices of many who followed Dr. King shaped the course of my life even before I was aware of its impact.  Growing up a few miles from Ferguson, Missouri, in St. Louis County, I benefited from integrated schools and had many options to study, shop, and eat.

And yet, today I realize that while we have progressed tremendously in the past 50 years there is still great need for courageous leaders to advocate for justice.  This is not just a race issue; it's a human issue and a faith issue. 

Dr. King followed in the footsteps of the Biblical prophets who were spokespersons for God, called to expose oppression and collective unrighteousness—or injustice. 

In the Biblical text the prophet Isaiah in chapter 49 verse 6 says, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

God called Isaiah to be uncompromisingly committed to justice for all, not just the Israelites.

Isaiah, like other Biblical prophets, exposed the sinful practices and polices that exploited and oppressed masses of people that religious and political leaders were tasked with serving. 

Biblical prophets called for broad social reform, not just individual betterment for a few.

They afflicted the comfortable by challenging religious and political regimes to align with God’s greater good. 

Interesting, although we do not know the name of Isaiah’s wife we do know she was a prophetess, as seen in Isaiah 8:3.  So both men and women prophesied and committed themselves to justice for all.

In this scripture Isaiah speaks to Israelites who are exiled and scattered around the region and calls them to glorify God even in their oppression and exile.  Yet Isaiah complains that despite all his efforts no one listens.  He is deeply despised and even hated by many in power.

Maybe you’ve felt despised and discouraged after this past year’s political season.  Maybe you’ve wondered if our work for social, economic, and political justice is worth it.  Well, you’re not alone.  Even Dr. King needed encouragement through the movement. 

On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech for jobs and freedom.  But he might have never delivered that message the way he did if not for some encouragement from gospel legend Mahalia Jackson.  She sang at the Lincoln Memorial before Dr. King’s address.  Midway during his speech, she said: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!  Tell ‘em about the dream!”  King pushed his manuscript off to the side and preached from his heart.  He told them them about the dream.

Today, as the mother of 3 young children, I still have a dream that little black and brown boys and girls side by side with little white boys and girls will have equal access to excellent schools and health care so they can become world changers and history makers.  I pray that they are judged not by the hoodies they wear or the natural texture of their hair, but by the content of their character.  I write today because I believe there are many who are willing to keep working for this dream.

So, as people of faith, where do we go from here?

First, we serve others.  Dr. King once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"  Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King holiday to serve their neighbors and communities.  It's an opportunity for Americans from all walks of life to work together.  Just as the King holiday is a day on, not a day off, our service must continue throughout the year, especially for children and those most in need. 

Second, we must learn the facts to know the injustices that still exist today in our communities.

For example, education in urban America often is still separate and unequal:

Racial Disparities in High School Dropout Rates

  • Half of the nation’s African American and Latino students are dropping out of high school, with the most severe problems being in segregated, high-poverty schools.
  • Of schools with minority populations of at least 50%, half have dropout rates over 40 percent.
  • Of schools comprised of at least 90% minority students, two-thirds have dropout rates of more than 40%.

Racial Disparities in Incarceration and Criminal Sentencing

  • From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people.
  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population.
  • African American males are incarcerated at 5 times the rate of whites.

(Sources: NAACP.org, http://www.sentencingproject.org)

These are just two examples of civil rights issues of today.  We must know the facts and continue to work toward justice.

Third, we must lift our collective voice.  We have power together as a community to vote, run, and lead.  We must not only cast our vote, but also ensure everyone has access to the vote regardless of their background.  We must know and talk with our elected officials, government and community leaders, about the challenges of our time.  Together we can make our community and nation one that provides an opportunity for every person to thrive.  In particular, we must organize and be advocates for those who are voiceless by being courageous enough to run for political office, serve on boards and commissions, and negotiate to help create and implement policies for a more equitable society. 

Dr. King said, "Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.  The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro.  Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained."

Everyone can make a difference.  And, this is where community organizing with movements like Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO) is critically important. Conditions in our community are shaped by economic, social, and political power.  Therefore, improving community conditions requires building collective people power (not just individual) to develop solutions, negotiate policies, and hold leaders accountable.  Organized people of faith have long been the foundation of powerful civil rights, women’s, immigrant, labor, and poverty movements throughout history.

Finally, we must be willing to take non-violent direct action.  You may ask: "Why direct action today?  Why sit-ins, marches, protests and so forth?  Isn't negotiation a better path?"  Here's how Dr. King answered that question in his letter from a Birmingham jail.

"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.  It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored..."

May we all have the courage to organize for non-violent direct action, as we feel called.  May we seek to bring good news to the poor and deliverance to the oppressed, and not bow to the desires of those in power simply to avoid making waves.  May we courageously stand for justice, kindness, and humility with God.

And when we do, here’s the promise from God to prophet Isaiah and to us today in chapter 49 verse 7.

Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Let me end with this.

As a young girl I often wondered why my parents and teachers insisted I know African history as a supplement to Biblical and American history.  I was often more interested in other things like my friends and sports.  What they taught me is that the human race is inextricably connected in all communities across time and geography.  So we cannot sit idly by in Kansas City and not be concerned about what happens in Washington, D.C.  We cannot ignore what happens in north Kansas City because we live south of the river.  We cannot isolate ourselves from poverty because, as Dr. King wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."

May the prophet Isaiah’s and Dr. King's courage challenge each of us today toward action as we serve others, learn the facts, lift our voices, and take action.

 

Lia McIntosh is a coach, speaker, writer, and community advocate in Kansas City. She is an ordained United Methodist minister and specializes in urban ministry and leading churches to deeply connect with their communities.

Weekly Newsletter 7/25/2017

Weekly Newsletter 7/25/2017

The Senate will vote today on whether to proceed with making healthcare unaffordable for tens of millions. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal-and-replace efforts are not dead. Today is a critical moment. The Senate will vote on whether to continue their repeal efforts. Let's light up their phones together.   

Contact Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (202-224-5721), Kansas Senator Jerry Moran (202-224-6521), and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (202-224-4774) to let your voice be heard! Tell them the ACA is here to stay.

 

Phonebank for $15! We are phonebanking to get out the vote for the August 8 vote on a $15 minimum wage for Kansas City, Missouri, by 2022. We are doing so on Thursday(July 27, 5pm-8pm), Friday (July 28, 11am-2pm), and Saturday (July 29, 9am-noon). It will take place at the CCO office (2400 Troost Avenue, KCMO, suite 4600). Please emailgarrett@cco.org to RSVP.

 

Live in Johnson County? The JoCo CCO chapter is meeting on Thursday, July 27 at 6pm to discuss how to educate the region on the impact of social conditions like poverty on childhood development. We are meeting at Leawood United Methodist Church, 2915 W. 95th Street, Leawood, KS 66206. RSVP here and share the event on Facebook.

 

Attend the "Faith For $15" rally! God has declared that we seek justice for the poor. The time is now. Join clergy and diverse people of all faiths to boldly declare that pushing for dignity for ALL workers and their families is doing God's work, and that democratic participation is a way to serve the least of these in our society. All faiths must join together to announce the moral necessity of action. Kansas City, Missouri, must vote YES on Question 3 on August 8 to win a living wage for every worker.

The rally will take place at St. Mark Union Church (1101 Euclid Avenue in KCMO) at 4pm onSunday, August 6. RSVP on Facebook

 

Have a great week!

Weekly Newsletter 7/7/17

Weekly Newsletter 7/7/17

Wow. It's a busy time at CCO, and things are just getting started. First, some acknowledgements.

A special thank you to all who came in last week to share your healthcare story with two members of Senator Roy Blunt's staff. It was an emotional, powerful moment that demonstrated the unbreakable human spirit in the face of injustice, struggle, and tragedy. None in attendance will soon forget it. Check out and share the stories on Facebook, as well as photos from the event

Another thank you is owed to all who joined us for phonebanking against the American Health Care Act (AHCA) last week. It's because of pressure like this from across the nation that senators are hesitating to support this bill. It's because of your efforts that the bill hasn't been rushed through.

 

But we cannot stop now. We have to keep calling. Contact Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (202-224-5721), Kansas Senator Jerry Moran (202-224-6521), and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (202-224-4774) to let your opinion on the AHCA be heard. Together we can stop drastic cuts to Medicaid, preserve the subsidies that make healthcare plans affordable for tens of millions of people, and save the elderly and folks with pre-existing conditions from being overcharged by insurance giants.

 

The voter registration deadline is Wednesday! On August 8, Kansas City, Missouri, will vote on a $15 minimum wage. Voting YES on Question 3 will enact a $10 minimum wage right away and give working families a raise each year until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour in 2022. Voter registration is due by Wednesday, July 12.

Be sure you register to vote today if you live in KCMO.

Thank you, as well, to those who attended the "Rally For A Living Wage" last week! A second rally will be held just before the vote.

 

Phonebank for $15! We will be phonebanking to get out the vote starting this upcomingThursday (July 13, 5pm-8pm), Friday (July 14, 11am-2pm), and Saturday (July 15, 10am-1pm). It will take place at the CCO office (2400 Troost Avenue, KCMO, suite 4600). Please join us! Expect another email with more details shortly.

 

Live in Johnson County? The JoCo CCO chapter is meeting on Thursday, July 27 at 6pm to discuss how to educate the region on the impact of social conditions like poverty on childhood development. We are meeting at Leawood United Methodist Church, 2915 W. 95th Street, Leawood, KS 66206. RSVP here and share the event on Facebook.  

 

Have a good weekend!

Weekly Newsletter 6/21/2017

Weekly Newsletter 6/21/2017

Register to vote and take our pledge! On August 8, Kansas City, Missouri, will vote on a $15 minimum wage. Voting YES on Question 3 will enact a $10 minimum wage right away and give working families a raise each year until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour in 2022.

Be sure you register to vote today if you live in KCMO. Take the pledge afterwards to commit to voting and sharing information about the vote with others (signing the pledge will redirect you to a page with links to the KC for $15 Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as campaign materials you can share).

 

Attend the "Rally For A Living Wage"! It's time to come together to declare our shared commitment to justice and dignity for workers and their families. It's time to sound the call to action: Kansas City, Missouri, must vote on August 8 to win a living wage. 

Join CCO and many other social justice groups on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 6pm at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church (2310 E. Linwood Blvd, KCMO 64109). We will stand in solidarity with one another and organize to get out the vote for one of the most important elections in Kansas City history.

RSVP here.

 

Help us strike down HB 1194, a law that forbids Missouri cities from raising their minimum wages! The bill is on Governor Eric Greitens' desk. It is a threat to all Missouri cities pushing to guarantee a living wage to hardworking people.

Kansas City's new minimum wage law would go into effect before the state law would, yet it is nevertheless imperative we call Governor Greitens at 573-751-3222 and tell him to veto HB 1194. 

 

Come share your ACA story with Senator Blunt's Health Policy Advisor. Desiree Mowry, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt's Health Policy Advisor, will be in the CCO office on Monday, June 26, 2017 from 9am to 11am. We are looking for individuals willing to come in and share how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has positively impacted them.

This is a critical time to confront policymakers directly with the effects of their decisions. Next week a vote to repeal the ACA is expected in the Senate. The new bill will make 23 million people lose health insurance, cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, and allow insurance companies to overcharge the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. It will change healthcare in the U.S. and Missouri drastically.

If you can come in and share your ACA story in person, please email the CCO Communications Coordinator, Garrett Griffin, at garrett@cco.org. Send your name, phone number, and a brief description of your story. If you have someone you know with a powerful story, get him or her in touch with us as well. 

 

Live in Topeka? Join the Community Health Care Access Forum to find out how the AHCA could affect you. The AHCA will mean drastic cuts to KanCare and more Kansas families without affordable heath insurance. 

Join us on Saturday, June 24, 2017 from 10am to 11:30am at the Topeka and Shawnee Council Public Library (Marvin Auditorium), 1515 SW 10th Street, Topeka, KS 66604. 

RSVP here.  

 

Call your U.S. Senators to ask them to reject the American Health Care Act! Please contact Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (202-224-5721), Kansas Senator Jerry Moran (202-224-6521), and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (202-224-4774) to let your voice on this issue be heard. Time is running out; the time to speak up is now.

 

Have a great week.

Weekly Newsletter 6/15/2017

Weekly Newsletter 6/15/2017

Join us in Johnson County tonight! The Johnson County CCO chapter is hosting a viewing of part one of Raising of America, a groundbreaking documentary on how social conditions impact childhood development, at 5:30 pm on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Check out a trailer of the film here.

This event will take place at the Family Conservancy, 444 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66101. It will feature speakers from the Family Conservancy and Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri.

Please RSVP

 

Register to vote and take the pledge! On August 8, Kansas City, Missouri, will vote on a $15 minimum wage. Voting YES on Question 3 will enact a $10 minimum wage right away and give working families a raise each year until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour in 2022.

Be sure you register to vote today if you live in KCMO. Take the pledge afterwards to commit to voting and sharing information about the vote with others!

 

Help us strike down HB 1194, a law that forbids Missouri cities from raising their minimum wages! The bill is now on Governor Eric Greitens' desk. It is a threat to all Missouri cities pushing to guarantee a living wage to hardworking people.

Kansas City's new minimum wage law would go into effect before the state law would, yet it is nevertheless imperative we call Governor Greitens at 573-751-3222 and tell him to veto HB 1194. 

   

Call your U.S. Senators to ask them to reject the American Health Care Act! TheAHCA is an immoral bill. It guts Medicaid by $834 billion, allows insurance companies to overcharge the elderly and Americans with pre-existing conditions, and is expected to make 23 million people lose health insurance. All this while cutting taxes for the rich by $230 billion.

Please contact Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (202-224-5721), Kansas Senator Jerry Moran(202-224-6521), and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (202-224-4774). Ask them to take a stand against this misguided legislation.

 

Thanks for all you do to help bring human dignity to the center of public life. Have a blessed week.

Weekly Newsletter 6/7/2017

Weekly Newsletter 6/7/2017

The KC for $15 campaign has begun! On August 8, Kansas City, Missouri, will vote on a $15 minimum wage. Voting YES on Question 3 will enact a $10 minimum wage right away and give working families a raise each year until the wage floor reaches $15 per hour in 2022.

CCO has joined forces with many other social justice groups in Kansas City to get out the vote. Be sure you register to vote today and connect with the KC for $15 Facebook pageand Twitter page. We need you to help spread the word.

You will see below that the state of Missouri is trying to block cities from raising their minimum wages. Keep reading to learn how you can help stop this. But rest assured, even if the state succeeds, Kansas City's new law will go into effect before the state's, setting us up for a legal battle that we can -- and will -- win. 

 

Live in Topeka? Join the Mayoral Candidates Forum to hear and meet those running for Topeka mayor. Your voice and your vote matters, so it is important to show up and know who will be on the ballot.

This forum will take place at the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, 2910 SW Topeka Blvd, Topeka, KS 66611. Reception at 5:30 pm, forum from 6 pm to 8 pm. RSVP by emailingGwashington@gotopeka.com.  

 

Live in or near Johnson County? The Johnson County CCO chapter is hosting a viewing of part one of Raising of America, a groundbreaking documentary on how social conditions impact childhood development, at 5:30 pm on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

This event will take place at the Family Conservancy, 444 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66101. It will feature speakers from the Family Conservancy and Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri.

Please RSVP today. 

 

Help us strike down HB 1194, a law that forbids Missouri cities from raising their minimum wages! The bill is now on Governor Eric Greitens' desk. It is a threat to all Missouri cities pushing to guarantee a living wage to hardworking people.

It is imperative we call Governor Greitens at 573-751-3222 and tell him to veto HB 1194.  

   

We are also continuing our phone campaign to U.S. Senators to ask them to reject the American Health Care Act. The AHCA is an immoral bill. It guts Medicaid by $834 billion, allows insurance companies to overcharge the elderly and Americans with pre-existing conditions, and is expected to make 23 million people lose health insurance. All this while cutting taxes for the rich by $230 billion.

Please contact Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (202-224-5721), Kansas Senator Jerry Moran(202-224-6521), and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (202-224-4774). Ask them to take a stand against this misguided legislation.

 

Have a fantastic week!

Weekly Newsletter 5/31/2017

Weekly Newsletter 5/31/2017

Help us strike down HB 1194, a law that forbids Missouri cities from raising their minimum wages! The bill is now on Governor Eric Greitens' desk. It is a threat to all Missouri cities pushing to guarantee a living wage to hardworking families.

It particularly threatens St. Louis, which just passed a $10 minimum wage, and Kansas City, which will vote on a $15 minimum wage on August 8 (register to vote here).

It is imperative we call Governor Greitens at 573-751-3222 and tell him to veto HB 1194.  

    

We are also continuing our phone campaign to U.S. Senators to ask them to reject the American Health Care Act. The AHCA is an immoral bill. It guts Medicaid by $834 billion, allows insurance companies to overcharge the elderly and Americans with pre-existing conditions, and is expected to make 23 million people lose health insurance. All this while cutting taxes for the rich by $230 billion.

Please contact Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (202-224-5721), Kansas Senator Jerry Moran(202-224-6521), and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (202-224-4774). Ask them to take a stand against this misguided legislation.

 

Live in Kansas? The Johnson County CCO chapter is hosting a viewing of part one of Raising of America, a groundbreaking documentary on how social conditions impact childhood development, at 5:30 pm on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

This event will take place at the Family Conservancy, 444 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66101. It will feature speakers from the Family Conservancy and Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri.

Please RSVP today. 

 

Have a blessed week!

Weekly Newsletter 5/23/2017

Weekly Newsletter 5/23/2017

No fine, no jail time. After three long years, the final seven members of the Medicaid 23 listened closely to the brief words of a stoic Cole County judge. To the surprise of the defendants, their allies, and even their lawyers, the judge ruled out a monetary penalty: "Even a fine of one dollar would be excessive."

Riccardo Lucas and Revs. Susan McCann, Wallace Hartsfield, Lloyd Fields, Ester Holzendorf, and Emmet Baker were given what amounts to one year unsupervised probation. Reverend Jessie Fisher's case will be concluded later.

After the sentencing, Reverend Hartsfield led the group in prayer.

Now is the time to reflect on the work that still needs to be done to broaden healthcare access for all people. The Medicaid 23 were arrested while calling on the Missouri Legislature to expand Medicaid to cover 300,000 low-income Missourians who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies. After three years, this problem persists. It is estimated that 700 Missourians will die each year without Medicaid expansion.

What can you do to help?

We encourage you to contact your Missouri representatives in Jefferson City to make your voice heard on this issue. A similar fight over Medicaid expansion is close to victory in Kansas, so we encourage Kansans to also contact your representatives in Topeka. Tell them poverty should not be a death sentence.

 

It is also vital in this moment to urge our U.S. Senators to reject the American Health Care Act. As we work for Medicaid expansion, we must remember the veryexistence of Medicaid is threatened. The AHCA would slash hundreds of billions from healthcare for the poor, along with other immoral consequences.

 

Finally, we invite you to read and share an important interview on CCO's website. We spoke with Phil Glynn, President of Travois in Kansas City, on why his small business provides its workers a living wage, healthcare, higher education assistance, and even childcare, and why he personally thinks you should vote YES on the $15 minimum wage question on Kansas City's August ballot.

Thank you for all you do to create a better world. Have a great week!

Last of the Medicaid 23 Face Sentencing in Jefferson City

Last of the Medicaid 23 Face Sentencing in Jefferson City

By Garrett S. Griffin


Seven clergy and healthcare advocates from Kansas City and St. Louis will journey to Jefferson City today (Thursday, May 18) to be sentenced for trespassing at the state capitol in 2014. They were part of the Medicaid 23, a diverse group of brave activists who sang and prayed in the capitol balcony to urge the Missouri Legislature to expand Medicaid to cover the 300,000 low-income Missourians who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies.

For refusing to leave or allow their voices for poor families stuck in a coverage gap to be silenced, the Medicaid 23 were arrested and in 2016 found guilty of trespassing. Jay Nixon, Missouri governor at the time, offered them pardons. Seven refused the offer.

The seven include CCO Board President Rev. Susan McCann and Rev. Wallace Hartsfield Sr., both of Kansas City. The other five are Rev. Lloyd Fields, Rev. Ester Holzendorf, Rev. Jessie Fisher, and Riccardo Lucas, all of Kansas City, and Rev. Emmet Baker of St. Louis.

“This is about justice,” Reverend Susan McCann said. “Justice for the poor of our state still waiting for their representatives to act. Missouri makes it harder than almost any other state to qualify for Medicaid. While the Legislature delays, Missourians without health insurance die. This is a matter of life and death.”     

Sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today at the Cole County Circuit Court. 

Business Leader For $15: In Conversation with Travois' Phil Glynn

Business Leader For $15: In Conversation with Travois' Phil Glynn

Communities Creating Opportunity spoke with Phil Glynn, President of Travois in Kansas City, Missouri, about how and why his company supports economic dignity for its workers -- and why other companies should do the same.  

 

CCO: Travois spurs housing and economic development in First Nation communities: American Indian, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian. Tell us a bit more about what that looks like and why it's important to you. 

Glynn: We identify change agents working in Native communities. We support them as they lead a community organizing process to build consensus for a new development. This could be a business that creates family-wage jobs, infrastructure that is resilient to a disrupted climate, or housing that helps stabilize families. Once the community is united around an idea, we bring private investors to the table to close project gaps. We are a for-profit, mission-driven family business. Our model helps us move at the speed of the market. Our board, our founders, and our partners across Indian Country keep us anchored to our mission.

 

CCO: Some readers may be curious: Why Kansas City? Why is Travois here rather than elsewhere? 

Glynn: Travois is a family business. From 1995-2006, Travois employees worked in offices around the country. Around 2006, our founders (my in-laws) started looking for locations to centralize to gain efficiencies and bring everyone together. Our CEO Elizabeth Bland Glynn (my wife) and I had put down roots in KC. I grew up here and Elizabeth fell in love with the place after college. I could go through all of the things that make KC a great place to grow a business -- central location, good cost of living, access to passionate and skilled talent. But the truth is, Elizabeth and I had the first grandchild, which forced my in-laws to start spending time here. Once they did they saw what I have seen my entire life. This is a great community with great energy where positive things can happen.

 

CCO: We hear Travois pays its own employees a living wage. What's your philosophy behind that? 

Glynn: We want our employees focused on making a positive impact in the Native communities where we work. Paying a living wage, offering quality benefits, and supporting employees’ ongoing education are all a part of that. If you are worried about paying your bills, if you are unable to attend a child’s school play, or if you are unable to take time to care for a parent who is ill, where will your focus be? We have seen that when we invest in our people that investment pays off in big ways for our clients, investors, and our company.

 

CCO: Elaborate on how a living wage pays off for your company. You're a small business, with a staff of about 40. A common sentiment is that a decent wage kills small businesses: you can't afford to hire more workers, you can't properly invest in other areas of the business because you have to devote so much money to labor, and so on. Isn't paying a living wage holding Travois back?

Glynn: From a business point of view, motivated, devoted, creative employees are your most valuable asset. You have to invest in your most important asset if you want to succeed. Looking at people as a cost is a narrow, old-fashioned way of assessing things. Employee compensation is an investment. When you invest in your business you see returns in the form of lower turnover costs, happier customers, and new opportunities.

 

CCO: In August there will be a $15 minimum wage on the Kansas City ballot. Do you support this measure? 

Glynn: Yes. A $15 minimum wage puts more money in workers’ pockets that will circulate in our local economy. Communities grow by attracting talented people and new job creation follows talented people. I want Kansas City to be in a race to the top to be the best place in the region to live and work. Setting a minimum wage at a level that recognizes what it takes to raise a family and live with dignity is critical to that effort.

 

CCO: Just a couple more questions. You mentioned helping employees continue their education? And is it true you help with childcare as well?

Glynn: Travois assists employees with completing degrees that will help them succeed in their careers and their lives. Anything we can do to help our people accomplish their goals will contribute to our goal of being the best company we can be. When we invest in our people they invest in us. When it comes to childcare we have seen firsthand that there is a dearth of affordable, accessible early childhood care and education options. We did not want access to or affordability of child care to be a barrier to anyone working for Travois. We provide and subsidize daycare for the families of employees. We also recruit early learning educators whom we pay a livable wage. We encourage them to bring their children with them to work, which creates strong bonds among our childcare providers, employees, and children.

 

CCO: A company with its own daycare sounds pretty unique. How common is that in Kansas City, any idea?

Glynn: We certainly see it as a differentiator. There are larger organizations that offer daycare, but we are an example that small businesses can make it work too. We want to attract and retain the best people from the Kansas City area and nationwide. One thing we seem to hear from everyone, however, is how difficult it is to find accessible, affordable childcare. We are certainly not the only company that does this, but I think if more did they would find it is an incredible retention advantage.

 

CCO: Thank you for your time, Mr. Glynn.