Halfway through the 2017 Ziegler Young Religious Leaders Fellowship, our dynamic team of eight capable fellows has experienced and accomplished a lot. Here are their reflections:
Jean Carlos Arce
The Ziegler Young Religious Leaders Organizing Fellowship has thus far been an amazing experience. There has been a great balance between formal "in class" training and on the ground work. We have had the opportunity to learn from an incredibly talented and passionate group of individuals--clergy, organizers, professors, and workers. Speaking with the workers and seeing how our organizing efforts encourages them and helps them hope in a more just future is helping fuel my work on a daily basis.
I am working towards putting an end to the injustice of the Predatory Lending Industry. This is a large and long-term goal, but I feel it will be achievable if the work is continued and we do not give up in the struggle. Although my piece of this goal is a small one, I feel that it will begin a larger movement to help bring justice to the payday and installment lending industry. I'm wanting to start an alternative way to look at lending, one that comes from a faith and justice perspective. I'm hoping that as a community we can come together to meet the needs of those who find themselves in financial crisis. My idea is to start a movement of creating community emergency funds within congregations - hoping that in the future individuals in financial emergencies can turn to their communities to receive interest-free loans that will better suit the needs of them, their families, and overall, their community. As I do this work, I find energy and encouragement in the hope that flows through the humanity of all beings: that we long to care for one another; that we long to see prosperity, goodness, and opportunity for all people; that we long for the needs of all to be met.
Orange County / Immigration
As a CLUE fellow this summer, this journey has been an enriching, impactful experience. Although it has only been one month since I embarked on this wonderful opportunity, the knowledge that I have gained is remarkably valuable. Reflecting on my experience so far, as I continue to work on issues of immigration in OC and keep building connections with clergy and organizers who are committed to this work, my faith keeps growing. I have grown spiritually and my faith has impacted my work tremendously; learning about other faith traditions that approach the justice work in similar ways that I do, gives me the power and hope to endure every challenge that crosses my path. This fellowship has taught me that faith-based/rooted organizing mobilizes people of different faiths to stand up against all injustices—I am deeply honored and thankful to be part of this work.
Long Beach / Immigration
I am spending my time in the fellowship, and beyond, working on getting the stories of the undocumented in Long Beach out of the shadows and into the light. Rather than simply being a statistic, I want their stories to define what it means to be undocumented in America and break down the monolith that has been created to define this community.
Black-Jewish Justice Alliance
So far, in the fellowship, I’ve been learning a lot about Faith-Rooted organizing! I’ve been deeply moved by my visits with clergy and faith leaders who are active in the Black Jewish Justice Alliance. It’s been wonderful to hear about their communities, their commitment to justice and their visions for BJJA’s work. Working with CLUE and the amazing clergy is shaping my future rabbinate in ways I’m only beginning to understand.
This summer I've been the CLUE CA Legislation Guru, keeping track of bills on Affordable Housing and other areas of major importance to our ongoing fight for economic justice. Having never tracked state legislation before, and knowing little about affordable housing, the learning curve has been steep. As a low-wage and immigrant community activist, I've witnessed up-close the testimonies of those affected by low-wage labor, lack of sufficient health-care, and threat of deportation, but for some reason the way the legislative process and affordable housing policy are often explained has always seemed so rooted in concept, planning, and economics, that I've long struggled to understand them in a visceral, human way -- until now.
With CLUE's faith-rooted training regimen, plus daily contact with the love and wisdom of CLUE members across the southland, my heart has softened and my will strengthened in ways I could have never managed alone.
Downtown / Immigration
With this summer fellowship already halfway through, I have definitely been learning and growing. I have such a deeper understanding more how important it is to build relationships and connections with various diverse group of people. Through these built relationships I have been so moved by each person's story. I am truly inspired by all the unique stories I have heard. I am also thankful for the wonderful community I have back home in Chicago because of the support and love they freely give especially when this work gets tough.
The YRLF fellowship has been an exciting opportunity to engage in organizing work and learn about faith-rooted organizing. I've loved continuing to work on CLUE P♀WER (People Organizing for Women's Economic Rights), but have also really enjoyed getting to know the other campaigns CLUE is working on throughout LA and Orange County. One of the experiences which has had the most impact on me this summer was participating in a pilgrimage to Adelanto Detention Facility. Showing support for the nine Adelanto hunger strikers through prayer and picketing was a powerful reminder of the influence of love in situations where there is extreme injustice.