With Resilience and Connection, We Shall Overcome

What you imagine as overwhelming or terrifying while at leisure becomes something you can cope with when you must - there is no time for fear. - Rebecca Solnit

In 2012, I got a job as a newly minted, Certified Domestic Violence Counselor at a shelter in San Francisco for women and their children. 

I had a lot to learn about the struggles our clients endured, about how to be an effective advocate for someone when they are in the throes of a personal crisis. 

But two beautiful things struck me when I first walked through the door: the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to take care of one another. 

The women and children we served had escaped dangerous, often life-threatening situations. And while their fear was often palpable, so too was their strength and resolve. 

They helped each other fill out complicated paperwork. They took turns cooking meals. They shared advice on how to talk to their children.

While there was fear, there was also strength. Where there was room for uncertainty, there was also room for connection and compassion.

Since 2016, we have felt fear, but we have also planted our feet firmly in our own internal resilience and persevered because of our ability to connect with each other. 

We were inspired by the largest single-day protest in US history, the 2017 Women’s March.

We were humbled by the flood of people who came forward with their stories of surviving sexual assault in the wake of the #MeToo movement, a campaign first coined by activist Tarana Burke in 2006.

We were grateful to stand in solidarity with our fellow Angelenos who swarmed LAX after the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban.

We were (and are) thankful to immigration attorneys and activists who tirelessly advocate for people at the border, outside the border, in our country, and in detention.

We watched with tears in our eyes as hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs because of the pandemic, while hundreds of thousands of other workers continue to risk their lives to put food on our tables and provide healthcare to our loved ones.

This summer, many of us were brought to our knees by the video of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

After months of staying inside, cautiously maneuvering around others on my morning runs so as to not get within six feet of another human, I, and millions of others, threw COVID concerns out the window and hit the streets with protest signs that read, “Defund the Police,” and guttural cries of “Black Lives Matter!”

Those first few fateful days in June were likely the spark of the largest movement for justice in US history.

What we have shown as a country over the last four years is that the human spirit cannot be defeated by hate. It cannot be snuffed out by those who don’t think we deserve to live safely. Many are calling this an awakening of the collective consciousness. People are showing up for those who don’t look or live or love like they do. Showing up because that is what we do for each other. 

From this, may we never return. 

With eyes open, our collective is bound to move us in a direction that is illuminated by our light, resilience, and spirit. That may not be clear today or tomorrow. But with time, it will be. 

DACA Victory at SCOTUS: What Today Means for DACA Recipients ⚖️

Today was a victory for DACA recipients and for our democracy. 

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was ending the Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that has protected over 700,000 young immigrants from deportation.

DACA has been transformative for hundreds of thousands of immigrants like me, who were brought to the United States as children, as it allowed us to to obtain work permits, driver’s licenses, and other benefits.

Ending this program would have had devastating impacts and would have led to the removal of ​hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from the United States.

As a former beneficiary of DACA, the threat of the cancellation of this program had severe impacts on my life. 

When I heard the news, I was reminded of the bold move I (and hundreds of thousands other young immigrants like myself) made when first applying for DACA and deciding to come out of the shadows. 

At the time, an attorney told me that if DACA was ever revoked, I would lose all protections, and it would make me vulnerable to deportation because immigration authorities would know where I live. Knowing the risks that came from submitting my information to the government, I still applied to the program.

When I woke up on September 5th, 2017, I was immediately slapped with the reality of potential deportation from the country that I have called home since the age of six. 

I felt compelled to immediately move out of my apartment, where my family and I had just renewed our lease. My mother, sister, and I simply did not feel safe in our own home. We feared that ICE officials would show up at our door and arrest us and put us in detention.

I was terrified that I would be separated from my family the way thousands of our immigrant brothers and sisters have, because of this cruel and unjust system. My experience is the plight of many DACA recipients.

Today, June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court preserved protections for young immigrants by ruling that the Trump Administration cannot end DACA. This news allows me to take a sigh of relief - even in the midst of two global pandemics - COVID-19 and the global uprisings. 

But our fight does not stop here. We will continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that will allow for a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

CLUE-affiliated faith leader, and soon-to-be Giants of justice honoree, Rev. Nancy Frausto of St. Luke's Episcopal in Long Beach and a DACA recipient, offers these words of reflection:

Thank you to all who have fought alongside DACA recipients. This is an important win but the fight for justice continues. This is proof, "que sí se puede!" We will not let up until there is just and comprehensive immigration reform. 

Sí se puede.

We can and will make sure all undocumented people live without fear of deportation. This is the first of many wins as we fight for the dignity of every human being!

We Need Your Moral Courage, Now More Than Ever

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. 

Black Jewish Justice Alliance Statement on George Floyd's Murder

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.

CLUE Statement on George Floyd

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 

WE WON! Building a Local Economy that Works for All of Us 🌱

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.

Workers Need Stability, Not Hypocrisy: A Faith Perspective

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 Chateaus 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. 

Sanctuary Wins: Los Alamitos Rescinds Anti-Sanctuary Law After Two Year Fight

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. 

Celebrating Ramadan, Deepening Empathy

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.

In the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, sanitation workers disinfected the area around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque on Friday. Photo credit: Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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.


Introducing the CLUE Spiritual Care Hotline

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.


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