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The latest news and perspective from the Director of Urban Homeworks
Since issuing a statement a few weeks ago ("Dear Friends, Family, Community..." - read below), we have been profoundly inspired by the active pursuit of peace that is radically evident in the lives of our neighbors and the ever-emerging voices in our community. Our neighbors have used the platform that housing and stability has created to launch new and creative movements and discussions together – this leadership is felt in our neighborhoods.
THIS is the “pursuit of peace” that gives us hope:
• Urban Homeworks Homeowner, Nikki McComb’s “Enough” Campaign
• Urban Neighbors gathering to hear from Jason Sole, Minneapolis NAACP criminal justice reform chair, Criminal justice educator (Metro State, Hamline), author of “From Prison to Ph.D.”
• UHW Volunteers stepping in to mow lawns in support of grieving families (read the story HERE)
• Our friends at Pillsbury United Communities’ “Art Is My Weapon” gun buy-back campaign
• The 1,000 neighbors that Urban Homeworks’ residents have been door-knocking and registering to vote
The list could go on. And it will go on.
Thank you for the way you lead, thank you for seeing home as a platform for people to catalyze community change. Thank you for being willing to dig deeper with me into what it looks like for peace to truly reign in our lives and in our neighborhoods.
Dear Friends, Family, Community,
Thoughts and prayers to the Castile Family. Thoughts and prayers to the families of the officers in Dallas. Thoughts and prayers for us, to be delivered from the condition we've found ourselves in as a people, a condition so addicted to violent domination that babies die in our streets. God help us…
I’m done working for “peace.”
Let me be clear on just a couple of distinctions:
Peace DOES NOT EQUAL Justice
Conflict DOES NOT EQUAL Violence
“Law and Order” IS NOT THE SAME as “Protect and Serve”
I’m done working for a “peace” that is primarily defined as an “absence of conflict.”
This kind of “peace” can be achieved by force, supremacy, and domination. Overpowering a community with law enforcement as a way to “make peace” in a community through more aggressive application of “Law and Order.” It is domineering, and it does not address the fundamental injustices that are feeding the anger, anxiety, frustration and fear. It doesn’t do anything to work toward justice. It does nothing to build trust. Working for this kind of “peace” is just treating symptoms instead of confronting the underlying disease and most likely confusing the symptoms for the disease.
I’m done working for a “peace” that keeps us from having the real debate.
There needs to be some serious conflict—but that does not mean there needs to be violence. The call for non-violent protest and debate goes to both the community AND Police. Put the damn guns away.
I’m done working for a “peace” that practices avoidance.
The bottom line is that “power does not give up power without a struggle.” There will be struggle. There will be conflict. There will be friction. Movement toward justice has ALWAYS caused friction, tension, struggle and conflict. The Laws of Thermodynamics say that movement creates friction and friction creates heat. Any kind of movement—physical, intellectual, emotional, social—will create some friction and that friction will generate some heat. How shall we employ that heat? Constructively? Destructively?
I’m done working for a “peace” that is built on the foundations of denial.
Denying the brutal facts. Denying peoples’ real experiences. Denying peoples’ humanity. Denying a person’s LIFE.
I’m done working for a “peace” that “polarizes all understanding.”
A “peace” that suggests if I’m for X, then I’m against Y. If I’m against police brutality and willing to fight against the fact that people of color are far more likely to be pulled over, arrested, charged, and convicted, incarcerated and killed by police than white people, THEN somehow that makes me anti-police. I’m not anti-police. I’m all for “protect and serve,” and asset-based-community-policing. I’m tired of the violent, dehumanizing effects of the “Law and Order” regime.
I’m done working for a “peace” that is achieved by the “absence of conflict.”
One that maintains the status quo of injustice and oppression. I’m going to work for a JUSTICE where there is a “presence of wellness” for all people: a state where the world is as it ‘ought to be.’
I AM READY...
...to work tirelessly, boldly, and with great hope for the “presence of justice,” and if that elicits some conflict… then so be it.
Let’s talk. Let’s say their names. Let’s pursue Peace.
I think my dad once said: “I never give into peer pressure--- I just do whatever my friends tell me to do”. Or, maybe it was from a movie. All I know is that I didn’t come up with it :)
Anyway, I got an email from one of my professors at Bethel saying that I HAVE to read this book titled Shalom: The Bibles Word for Salvation, Justice, and Peace by Perry B. Yoder. So, in protest of peer pressure, I immediately went online and ordered it, just like my friend told me to do. It is from this book I plant within you with this quote:
“We are tempted at times to think of peacekeeping as maintaining the status quo without conflict. But our study of Shalom shows us that peacekeeping is whitewashing when we think we can have peace in spite of oppression, exploitation, and unjust laws. To maintain a situation of oppression, material want, and deceit about the way things are is not to keep peace, but is to do the opposite! Shalom making means transforming these situations into ones of fairness, equality, and justice. Shalom demands transformation not façade!”
By being a part of this mission and work at UHW, my friends, you are working shoulder-to-shoulder on some real transformative justice—Shalom… right here… right now… together. No peer pressure… but as a friend I’m telling you that this is core stuff and to go read this book.
(PS: I’m only on chapter 4... so if you’ve read the whole thing, don’t tell me how it ends!)
And don't miss this transformative story highlighting some of our closest friends and system-changers...Click here: More Mayo Please.
…“Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.”-Pharaoh, Exodus 5:15-18
I was in a meeting this week. It was a board meeting (not a UHW board meeting… ahem… ;-)). It was filled with committed and influential friends/colleagues/supporters. We entered into a well-intended conversation when some of the following soundbites started fly’n:
“We must get better results and more impact with the current level of resources”.
“Resources are shrinking.”
“It’s really hard to get new money from source X, or funder Y. It’s better we focus our energy on doing more with less.”
“More with less.” More with less. More with less. More bricks. Less resources. More houses. Less money. More jobs. Less investment. More, more, more with less, less, less…
“More with less” is the command from Pharaoh…. Or it is at least, “maintain your production with less”. But, let’s just say “more with less” because it rings in the ear with a little more resonance than “maintain…” You see, we’re entering into a unique time right now… We’re climbing out of a housing crisis – where for 7-8 years, we saw hundreds of thousands of foreclosures, we saw housing prices plummet, we saw the government combat economic collapse by pouring funding into stabilizing neighborhoods (neighborhood stabilization programs) and we, as an organization that uses housing as a lever to build power with our neighbors, moved as quickly, as efficiently, and as innovatively as possible to take every one of those dollars and put it back in the hands of our community (many times with by sheer grit and determination).
Now, we’re seeing a recovery. But I use that word loosely, because that “recovery” is benefitting some more than others. Recovery for whom? Political will to fund and reclaim the 1202x more vacant, and foreclosed, and generally uninhabitable homes that still pain our neighborhoods has significantly diminisheded and our neighborhoods’ vacancy rate is still at a historic low while habitable homes have a vacancy rate of less than 2%. Super low.
I’ve gotta say – “maintaining” a status quo where my neighbors walk past too many vacant properties to experience a minimum of 3 years wait for housing doesn’t sit so well with me… and now we’re being asked to do so “more with less”. When this notion of “more with less” is articulated in any of its multitude of ways (and so frequently these days), I begin to wonder if it’s not a signal that we are in a type of slavery…that we’re back in Egypt. And that there may be pools of excess being held on to in the face of scarcity..
This all didn’t come out of my board meeting, but what the board meeting did was bring me back to the ‘ole Exodus liberation story. The Exodus liberation story reminded me that God promises that there IS ENOUGH. And I want to challenge myself and my community by asking the question – is it time for us to reexamine what enough looks like in each of our lives? To identify where it is that we may be holding on to too much, where we may be able to give MORE, so that together we can DO more (not just “maintain” with less)? Could this be our time, again, to step in and demonstrate the power of our collective decision to reexamine our standard of living?
I want to drown “more with less” in the “Red Sea” of “Enough” and enter the journey toward the “promised land” that flows with “milk and honey” together. I want to encourage us to land on enough… enough for everyone… not too much… but enough (and I’ll bet there will be leftovers!)
Thank you for having the courage to examine and wrestle over these questions with us, to so faithfully participate with an effort, team, and family of residents that are doing everything possible to realize more stability,
more hope, more of God’s “kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven”!
Toward Enough. Cheers…
(Chad, Executive Director at UHW, wrote this note to the Urban Homeworks team as we celebrate the work of Martin Luther King Jr.)
“We must re-member a dis-membered past…” (loose quote of Ched Myers).
This is a weekend to re-member. This last weekend we re-member some of the stories and narratives that have risen out of the civil rights movement – especially as they relate to Martin Luther King.
I encourage you to take the dis-membered past that lies in parts and pieces around us and re-member them into a more whole and real story. I encourage you to do some work. It is this story that gives us the analysis through which to view our current conditions. It is this story that resonates with the stories of scripture. It is this story that helps us lament and grieve and grow. It is this story that helps us see and hear and be emboldened and encouraged. It is in a more full and robust story that we can find and pursue hope.
“Memory is always political” (Ched again). The stories that get told verses the stories that get sold and those that left in the cold of silence—re-membering is political. Take some time to dig. Take some time to re-member what has been dis-membered by historic amnesia.
Thank you for all you do in pursuit of love and justice. Justice, as Cornell West says, is what “love looks like in public”. MLK talked about “negative peace” verses “positive peace” in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. Negative peace meaning the absence of tension. Positive peace meaning the presence of justice. (if you haven’t read this letter before, or it’s been some time… I commend it to you for this week’s reflections.)
We are about perpetuating the Hope of Jesus Christ. We are about perpetuating positive peace… perpetuating public love: justice. To re-membering a history that has suffered so much dis-membering. To re-membering the shoulders upon which we stand. To hope!
For the past few months, we have been hearing what is on the hearts and minds of Urban Homeworks’ Director team. For Jess Mueller, our Director of Development and Marketing, the face to face reality of the work being done at Urban Homeworks feeds her belief in the mission.
Yesterday morning started off like the others. I dropped my kids off, watched them run into Ascension Catholic School with one skirt on backward and all shoes untied, and drove away feeling exhausted… at 7am. In spite of that, the 3 block drive to from there to the Urban Homeworks office hit me differently that morning.
In the first block, I drove past Families Moving Forward - a non-profit that exists to help families in emergency transitional situations. The families meet in their office, busses take them to local church basements, they set up sleeping bags and get ready for bed. They wake up to be bussed back to the office where parents use any available resources to find a more permanent situation. As I drove past, several parents were loading their kids into taxis to send them off to school.
That reality woke me up. A number of historical, social, and economic circumstances have left me equipped and with resources to provide stability for my kids – to be honest, my biggest problem is making sure the kids eat all of their breakfast. Many of the parents we are walking beside are coming from situations where they are sleeping in a different house, on a different couch, surrounded by different people for months on end. My exhaustion is nothing in comparison.
But… on the next block, I drove past three beautiful Urban Homeworks properties. I know that eight families live there. I know that it’s likely they’ve experienced long-term stability. In fact, I know that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that at least one of them is moving toward home ownership.
And then, finally, at the end of that 3-block continuum, there sits a run-down multi-unit building. I’m never certain whether it’s habitable or has been sitting vacant for too long. What I do know, is that we are sitting in the space which allows for action and change. Working at Urban Homeworks brings me face to face with opportunities to rebuild a block and reclaim hope...so more families are dealing with the regular exhaustion of parenting instead of the uncertainty of instability.
As we hurtle toward the end of the year, you can join me in fueling the hope of families. You are unleashing new hope for individuals needing that bolster of support.