We are living through a painful moment in our nation’s history. In the midst of a global health crisis that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities, the police continue to murder Black men and women with impunity – and in response to our outrage, our governments have enacted draconian measures to quash dissent.
I am exhausted, angry, sad, and so much more. As a white woman, I know that I do not understand the pain that our Black siblings are feeling right now and I rededicate myself to taking my cues from our Black leaders in this moment and every moment moving forward.
Our fight for racial justice and against White supremacy and police brutality is not new. CLUE has fought against abuses of police power, protested racist policies like the Muslim Ban, and walks everyday with low-income people of color.
In this moment, we need to invest more time and capacity into this work.
Police departments across this nation are overfunded and over-militarized. Our criminal justice system discriminates against Black and Brown bodies. Instead of protecting marginalized communities, our police departments too often use their power to exploit, abuse, and murder our Black neighbors.
These frameworks have been in place for centuries, which means that they are archaic and hideous, but they are also familiar. People of privilege have historically done everything they can to hold onto their place in power.
This has to change. Now.
We must have the moral courage to re-envision our systems.
Instead of funding the police, jails, and prisons, we need to fund education, job programs, community clinics, hospitals, and mental health services. We need restorative justice programs and rehabilitation programs, not an abusive and punitive carceral system that retraumatizes and causes more violence.
Police need to be the last option.
We need to change hearts and minds. While many Americans are taking to the streets because they are outraged, there are still those in our communities and in our families who view Black and Brown bodies as less than.
This is a time of courage and purpose. This is the time to stand up and say, “enough is enough.” No more murdering our Black siblings. No more mass incarceration of people of color. No more over-policing of our communities of color.
No more violence. No more.
Last night in a news conference, Mayor Garcetti said that the city will look to cut $100 million to $150 million from the police budget to invest into the Black community. While this is progress, it is not enough when you consider that the LAPD’s budget is $1.86 billion.
Now is the time to hold Mayor Garcetti accountable and demand that LA pass a budget that reflects the needs of its community.
Here’s what you can do right now.
The Black Jewish Justice Alliance (BJJA) is grieving and enraged at the murder of George Floyd at the hands of an officer of the Minneapolis Police Departement. However, this current moment of grief and rage is not only about George Floyd. It is about the targeting and killing of black people by “law enforcement” for centuries. From Bull Connor to Michel Moore, police departments across the country have seen themselves as protectors of property and not of the lives of Black and Brown people. Every time that there is another police shooting which is widely protested, and which in turn leads to Police assaults and violence, there is a momentary awakening; a moment in which people realize that the answer is neither more police nor more technology.
The BJJA joins our siblings and allies in the Black and the Jewish communities in demanding policies, politicians, and people who clearly understand what is happening to the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. We demand a massive reduction in the budget of the LAPD and the LASD in favor of more spending in communities and alternatives to incarceration: education, rehabilitation programs, restorative justice programs, mental health care, clinics, and hospitals. We refuse to remain sanguine when low income, mainly black and brown communities, are over-policed but under-protected, while wealthy communities are over-protected with almost no police presence. We have long seen that more or different policing is not the answer.
The answer is investing in community solutions to community problems. The answer is providing housing for homeless people and families; the answer is providing jobs and economic support to people who are struggling financially; the answer is to invest more in the schools in poorer neighborhoods through a fairer tax system. The answer is to stop the cycle of violence in which armed policing is mistaken for order.
The Black Jewish Justice Alliance is a joint project of CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) and SCLC-LA (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). The BJJA is a table at which Black and Jewish faith and advocacy organizations meet to work on issues of criminal justice reform and social justice more broadly.
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), an economic justice organization, is appalled and outraged by the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. This act reveals the unbroken web of inequality and racism that African Americans in our country have endured for generations.
Every police shooting of a person of color draws attention to our nation’s lack of progress towards political and economic equality --- especially now, during a national pandemic, in which people of color are stricken by the virus in far higher proportions than the rest of the population.
Additionally, CLUE strongly disavows the shameful actions of the Minneapolis Police Department. They came out in phalanxes in full riot gear, firing, maiming with potentially deadly rubber bullets, firing tear gas into crowds of unarmed protesters, and chasing them down in violence on the pretext of minor causes. This violence against our neighbors is reprehensible and it must stop.
The police and officials have no legitimate justification for their own provocative presence and actions. These are spontaneous, grassroots protesters – many of whom are African American – expressing their understandable outrage and calling for justice over the open, ruthless murder of a helpless African American man – an all too common occurrence in our society that threatens each and every person perceived as “other.”
While we firmly believe in the sanctity of private property – and especially the sanctity of homes, houses of worship, and places of cultural importance – it does not compare or rise to the level of the sanctity of human life, all human life.
Many upholders of the system of white supremacy are now publicly justifying the follow-up to the egregious Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd by the equally appalling, organized Minneapolis police brutality of the last two nights against unarmed, mostly African American protesters.
They seek to discredit the public protest of this open murder by armed civil servants by the subsequent damage done to private property. They would sanction the ad hoc killing of African Americans like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Marcus Golden, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, and George Floyd, the last four by Minnesota police and in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, by looking the other way to the self-appointed “vigilante police.”
There can be no compromise of the sanctity of human life and no comparison of human life with inert property.
This provides obvious proof of an underlying racial contract of white supremacy in America. People of political power and wealth have recently privately funded anti-lockdown protests over coronavirus policies, that seek to keep all people safe and strategically placed these in various state capitols. These funded, mostly white protesters appeared in full camouflage military fatigues, armed with assault-weapons, sometimes carrying confederate flags and Nazi symbols. In some cases, they rushed and entered capitol buildings, shut down democratic processes, and aggressively pounded on windows and confronted police face to face.
Yet the police somehow remained silent and passive in the face of it all. No riot gear. No rubber bullets. No firing of tear gas canisters. No chasing down protesters. Just acceptance, even protester encouragement from elected officials, including our president.
We must bring about a new ideal of a livable social contract as a prescription for human justice and peace in our society. In the interim, we at CLUE call for three immediate actions.
- City and county councils, and state and federal representative bodies, should formally affirm in resolutions the sanctity of life (which many now speak of) over and above that of all other earthly inviolabilities, especially that of property.
- We call on elected and appointed officials to disallow – under all circumstances – police forces under their authority from confronting unarmed protesters who are denouncing police actions of killing an innocent man and calling for due process.
- Although it is a step in the right direction that Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder it does not go far enough, and we believe that all officers who were involved in the murder or George Floyd should also be brought to justice.
This week, the Jewish community is celebrating Shavuot, the holiday marking the anniversary of God’s revelation at Sinai, and the giving of the Torah. Shavuot is seven weeks after Passover. It is the final moment in the Exodus from Egypt. While Passover celebrates the physical salvation of the Israelite people, the leaving from the enslavement of the body, it took much longer to shed the pernicious ideology that legitimized enslaving people and oppression in the first place. Only when the Israelites “left” Egypt in the sense of shedding this framework of racist and xenophobic oppression and violence, could they hear God’s word speaking from the mountain.
In this country, at this moment, we are still walking towards Sinai. It is only when we shed the racist ideology that makes the lives of some people worth less than others, that we ever hear the word of God.
Today, we want to share an exciting update on our work with THRIVE Santa Ana, a campaign that CLUE's Faith-Rooted Organizer, Lucero Garcia, has been engaged in for many years. Lucero also sits on the board of THRIVE.
THRIVE Santa Ana is a community-based coalition that stewards land for local needs too-often overlooked by large developers, including affordable housing, community gardens, open space, urban farms, commercial spaces, and other community assets.
On May 1st, 2018, the City of Santa Ana entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with THRIVE for the vacant lot at 1901 W. Walnut St., a 16,000 square-foot parcel surrounded by commercial, residential, and industrial zones.
In the two years since, CLUE has been engaged in coalition, pushing for the city to allow residents to create a micro-farm on this plot of land.
Finally, after nearly three years of advocacy, the Santa Ana City Council approved an agreement with THRIVE that will allow local residents to develop a micro-farm on the Walnut and Daisy Lot.
THRIVE Santa Ana residents, faith leaders, and community partners gathered at the Santa Ana City Hall to celebrate the approval of a 99-year lease for the Walnut and Daisy Community Micro-farm. "The Public Lands Are of the People."
The pandemic has demonstrated the vital need for a local-based economy and highlights what we as a community have always known: that community lands belong in community hands; that green spaces and community-led gardens foster health and solidarity; and that we all deserve to live in an economy that works for all of us.
There is more work to do at the Walnut and Daisy lot. To learn more or get involved, visit THRIVESantaAna.org.
By Stephen Rohde, Chair, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
Grace R Dyrness, Vice Chair, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
Michael Racanelli has worked at Chateau Marmont for five years. At the end of March he was let go due to the coronavirus. Michael might have thought his investment in the hotel would have paid a dividend for him. He was wrong. As Michael put it: “People gave their lives to the Chateau Marmont, and they were left with nothing; just a generic email thanking them for their service.” Some have worked for over thirty years, but this investment of their lives left them with nothing: no ongoing health insurance and no severance. Another worker let go after nearly 23 years, said: “I feel like an insect that has been kicked out of the house.”
By now, many people understand that the coronavirus pandemic affecting all of us is particularly exacerbating America’s pre-existing crisis facing low wage workers. Though we are all struggling in various ways, those of us who are people of faith want to call attention to the recent sacred period of religious holidays. These all celebrate a God of justice and liberation. It is simply immoral that more and more workers are being forced to make the awful choice between paying for food and rent. We wish you could get to know these workers as we have - people like the valets at the Chateau Marmont who were recently profiled in the Hollywood Reporter and called “The ‘Unsung Heroes’ of Hollywood” - incredible people who have given as many as four decades of service to their companies.
But unlike at other hotels and employers around Los Angeles County - including the Andaz West Hollywood, which worked with employees to keep them on their existing healthcare plans during this public health crisis and Pomona College, where workers are paid through commencement - the Chateau’s owner Andre Balazs made the decision to fire employees with no extended health care and no severance.
In response to the workers’ organizing, Balazs made a 100,000 dollar contribution to a GoFundMe account his hotel set up to support their workers. Though one might be inclined to appreciate this gesture, it needs to be placed into a larger perspective. For Balazs, whose net worth is estimated at 700 million dollars, a donation of this amount is like someone worth $50,000 giving seven dollars. What is worse, his net worth is surely owed, in part, to workers like Michael Racanelli, who have given themselves to their work in the hotel and have been let go. Workers told us that they are not bitter about the owner’s wealth; they simply want work that pays a decent wage to live a quality life.
Even more striking, for a long time the top priority of his workers wouldn’t cost him a penny. They wanted to know that when the hotel starts rehiring, the jobs they had served for decades would still be available to them, starting with the workers who have served there the longest. When it was clear the company would neither communicate this to workers directly nor make a clear legally binding commitment to do so, Chateau workers turned to LA City Hall to ensure they would have full legal rights to job security. On April 29th, they won, with the City Council unanimously passing two ordinances that would require businesses like the Chateau to attempt to rehire laid off workers before offering open positions to new employees.
This is not an unusual demand - not only did it pass in the city of Los Angeles, both also Los Angeles County and the City of Long Beach recently enacted a similar ordinance, and Santa Monica has had a right of recall on its books for close to twenty years following 9/11.
At times like this, all of us need to pull together to pursue the good of our community—owners, managers, customers, and workers. This is why, as people of faith and residents of Pasadena, we urge Pasadena to pass worker recall and retention laws to make sure workers in the hospitality and service industries are rehired when businesses reopen, and workers can keep their jobs if the ownership of their companies change. This is the right and moral thing to do. Workers have built the global reputation Los Angeles County rightly possesses; now is the time to show that this reputation is based on justice and fairness for all.
Today, we want to share some good news with you about Reverend Samuel Pullen, a former CLUE staff member and Orange County committee member, who on May 11th, 2020, won a two-year fight with the city of Los Alamitos to rescind their anti-sanctuary law.
On October 5th, 2017, California signed SB 54, also known as the California Values Act, into law, ensuring that no state and local resources are used to assist federal immigration enforcement and that our schools, our hospitals, and our courthouses are safe spaces for everyone in our communities. The California Values act went into effect on January 1st, 2018.
But on May 16th, 2018, Los Alamitos passed its own ordinance exempting the city from complying with the California Values Act.
In response, Rev. Sam helped organize religious leaders and community to demand that the city repeal the ordinance and act in accordance with the state-wide sanctuary law. Together, they formed Los Alamitos Community United to advocate for safety in our communities.
Rev. Sam Pullen, far right, led a protest outside Los Alamitos’ City Hall in 2018 to oppose the city’s anti-sanctuary move.
Los Alamitos’ actions also prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU) to file a lawsuit against the city.
Finally, on Monday, May 11th, 2020 the Los Alamitos City Council voted to rescind the anti-sanctuary ordinance.
The city's reversal was part of a settlement agreement reached between the ACLU and other community groups and the city of Los Alamitos.
"I think it's an important example of when elected officials pursue policies that are politicized and polarizing but don't benefit the community, it's important to stand up and challenge that," Rev. Sam told the Orange County Register. Rev. Sam was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
We applaud the hard work of Rev. Sam and everyone in Los Alamitos Community United to represent what we stand for: that all people deserve to live in safety.
Want to learn more about this campaign? Pastor Sam was interviewed on KUCI's "Ask a Leader" program on Tuesday. Have a listen here.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan started on April 23rd, 2020, and continues through May 23rd. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic world's lunar calendar, commemorates when Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran, Islam's sacred text, to Prophet Muhammad.
During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. It is a time of spiritual discipline — of deep contemplation of one's relationship with God, extra prayer, increased charity and generosity, and intense study of the Quran.
This year, Muslims around the world are practicing Ramadan in strange, new ways. Families and communities usually come together after their evening prayer to join in community and have an iftar, or a breaking of the fast. Many do so in their homes with their friends, neighbors, and at their temples with their communities.
Ramadan also reminds us to deepen our empathy for those who are distressed. We join the nation in extending our most heartfelt gratitude to the heroes who are keeping us fed - from our farm workers to our grocery store workers - and healthy and also those who pick up the garbage each week. We send our blessings to all of them and their families.
We also extend our most sincere condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and also those who are infected with the virus. And our special prayers go out to those who lost their livelihood and pray that together, we will support each other through this difficult time.
Let us strive together and transcend ourselves to transform this world into a place of love and respect for all.
In times like these, when desperation, fear, and uncertainty are all around us, our community knows that spiritual care is more important than ever.
To help those most in need, CLUE launched its first ever CLUE Spiritual Care Hotline to accompany our workers and our community in their spiritual and emotional needs during COVID19. CLUE clergy are available to provide spiritual care in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday, from 12pm to 8pm. If you know of someone in need, please share the information below.
Today, we want to share with you the inspirational work of CLUE's Faith-Rooted Organizer, Pastor Cue JnMarie.
Every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, Pastor Cue and other grassroots organizers provide food and masks for some of our most vulnerable, unhoused neighbors in Downtown Los Angeles.
Though Governor Newsom has opened 15,000 hotel rooms to shelter the homeless during COVID19, only three percent of the state's 150,000 unhoused people have been moved to hotel rooms.
Last week, Pastor Cue was interviewed in The Final Call about this crisis, noting that the infrastructure is just not in place to move tens of thousands of unhoused Californian's into hotels. He also stated that, "It is partly the prayers of the community and the grassroots effort to work and try to keep people clean that we haven’t had more cases in Skid Row. I really believe that.”
In times of great crisis, it is acts of abundant love that will see us through. Thank you for walking on this journey with us.
If you want to watch a video of Pastor Cue fulfilling God's work, check it out on his Facebook.
We are, like many of you, scared for the safety of our most vulnerable neighbors and the future of the economy. With the stay-at-home order extended in California through May 15th, it may feel harder to stay focused and grounded.
Uncertainty is a part of everyday life, even when we are not in the midst of a global pandemic. But today, we are much more conscious of this truth, and for many, it feels uncomfortable and frightening.
We are also experiencing a collective grieving - for what was and what could have been and what may be.
As grief expert David Kessler wrote in his book, The Sixth Stage of Grief, "You don't have to experience grief, but you can only avoid it by avoiding love. Love and grief are inextricably intertwined."
Listen to his interview with Brené Brown on her podcast, "Unlocking Us."
I invite you to read below a poem from Sufi Poet Rumi that reminds us to welcome even our most uncomfortable emotions.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi